Learn how to spot warning signs of melanoma
Now that we’ve covered certain types and elements of melanoma, I’d like to round up Melanoma Month with my personal tips and suggestions to teach you what to look for. After all, you’re the one most likely to catch it over time – not your dermatologist.
Know Your ABCDE’s of melanoma
An easy mnemonic to help you remember what to look for is ABCDE:
- A is for Asymmetry: look for moles where the shape of one half is different from the other.
- B is for Border: look for moles with irregular, scalloped, or jagged borders.
- C is for Color: look for moles with multiple colors or variation in color-especially shades of black, brown, blue, red, or white.
- D is for Diameter: melanomas are usually larger than 6 millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser) but they can be smaller too.
- E is for Evolution/Evolving: moles that are undergoing ANY kind of change, especially as outlined above, need to be evaluated by a medical professional.
Another good rule of thumb to follow is the “ugly duckling” sign. If you spot a mole that just doesn’t look like anything else you currently have or have seen before, then it needs to be checked. When melanoma is found early, it is almost 100% curable.
Best personal practices
- Stop outdoor and indoor tanning. Research shows indoor tanning increases a person’s melanoma risk by 75%.
- Use sunscreen every day. Look for an SPF of at least 30 as well as Zinc (no less than 6%) on the ingredient list. Apply 20 minutes before outdoor activity and reapply every 2 hours that you are outdoors and more often if you are sweating heavily or swimming. Even on cloudy, rainy, or snowy days you need to wear sunscreen if you are exposed to the sun.
- Limit your outdoor activity to early morning and later afternoon. UV radiation is most intense during the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. Plan outdoor activities to minimize exposure.
One person dies every minute from a melanoma. While a component of this cancer is genetic, there are still many steps you can take to reduce your chances of having it. So this May, take time to educate yourself and the ones you love about preventing melanoma… And have your annual full body exam, if you haven’t already!