Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States? Although basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common skin cancers, they are not likely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma is the skin cancer that causes most worry due to its more aggressive nature and its possible risk to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma ranks as the 7th overall most common cancer. We’ve got you covered though. Here’s how to check your moles and freckles for skin cancer.
Here are a few statistics that all parents should know regarding sunburns and melanoma:
- One or more blistering sunburns during childhood or adolescence more than doubles an individual’s risk of developing melanoma later in life.
- Melanoma is the most common cancer among 25-29 year olds and the second most common cancer among 15-29 year olds.
- Regular daily use of sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher reduces the risk of melanoma by 50%.
While skin cancer is dangerous, if caught early it is treatable. Here are the steps to how to check your moles and freckles for skin cancer:
- Know your moles. Melanomas appear as new spots 2/3 of the time. The other 1/3 of the time they appear within birthmarks, moles or freckles. With that in mind, be aware of the moles you have, the types of moles you are developing and the sheer number of moles you have. Pay attention to a new mole that looks different from the rest of your moles. Individuals with fewer moles (6-20) are at a lower risk for developing melanoma. A mole count greater than 50 increases an individual’s risk of melanoma, and when the mole count is greater than 100, the risk of melanoma is even greater. Individuals with a large mole count should routinely see a dermatologist.
- Keep an eye out for ugly ducklings. Most people have one to three “families” or groups of moles that look similar to each other. Patients and doctors can find abnormal moles simply by being cautious of moles that look different from your family of moles. As we get older, we may develop more freckles but not true moles. If you are more than 30 years old, and you develop a new “ugly duckling” mole, be wary and get it evaluated by a dermatologist.
- Protect your skin from freckles. Freckles are the small light brown patches that develop from ultraviolet exposure in fair skin. If you have freckles, it means you are getting too much ultraviolet exposure. If you start to see freckles on your child’s cheeks or on yours, slather on more sunscreen for sun protection!
- Check for carcinomas. Basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas do not look like abnormal brown moles. Instead, they look like inflamed wart-like lesions or reddish pimple-like lesions that are not healing. Basal cell carcinomas are often seen as pink, crusty pimple-like scabs that seem to heal but then reappears and does not go away. A rule of thumb is that if you have a scab or cut that doesn’t heal after a month, see your doctor.
- Know your A,B,C,D – E’s. Be familiar with the ABCDE’s of melanoma. If you see any of these traits in a mole, see your doctor.
- A – Asymmetry. Moles that are asymmetric – you can’t draw a line down the middle and match up both sides
- B – Borders. Moles with fuzzy or ill-defined borders
- C – Color. Moles with different, irregular colors throughout or two-toned moles
- D – Diameter. Moles greater that 6mm in diameter
- E – Evolving. Moles that are changing. Moles shouldn’t change – they should just exist
By diligently keeping an eye on your moles, and by continuing to slather your family in sunscreen, you can help to ward off even the scariest of skin cancers, melanoma.