About one in five Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they turn 70. It’s the number one cancer affecting people of all genders and races, but the good news is it’s also one of the most curable — and the key is early detection.
A few of the most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Of all the types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most serious, because it’s more likely to spread to other parts of the body.
Early detection is the best way to prevent and treat skin cancer. In fact, the five-year survival rate for people with melanoma is around 99% when the cancer is detected in the early stages.
Walter D. Gracia, MD, PA, and our team specialize in diagnosing skin lesions and removing moles. We regularly teach our patients about the ABCDE method and why monthly at-home skin checks are so important. It’s an easy way to check your skin for signs of melanoma, and it could help save your life.
Your skin cancer self-exam
Getting familiar with your skin is one of the best ways to lower your risk of skin cancer complications. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends examining your skin from head to toe once a month to check for signs of skin cancer.
Take a look at all your skin — even the parts that never get sun exposure — and keep an eye out for the ABCDEs:
A - asymmetrical
Noncancerous moles are usually symmetrical, which means they’re round or oval in shape and they look the same on both sides. Visualize a line going through the mole and look to see if the two halves are similar. If they’re different or asymmetrical, it could indicate cancer.
B - border
The borders around noncancerous moles are often sharply defined. A mole or spot with an irregular, scalloped, or faded border may be a sign of melanoma.
C - color
Cancerous moles are often more than one color, while noncancerous moles are typically one shade of brown. Look for a range of colors, like brown, tan, black, white, red, or blue. If you have a spot with varying colors, it could be cancerous.
D - diameter
Small moles usually aren’t cause for concern, but spots larger than a pencil eraser (six millimeters across) could be cancerous. Melanomas are usually diagnosed when they’re larger than 6mm, but they can be identified earlier.
E - evolving
Most noncancerous spots don’t change over time. If you have a spot or a mole that’s growing larger or changing color or shape, it may be melanoma. Any spot that looks significantly different from the spots around it could also indicate skin cancer.
When to get a professional skin check
You should schedule a professional skin check with Dr. Gracia and our team if you notice anything unusual during your monthly self-exam. Even if you haven’t spotted anything unusual, it’s a good idea to get annual skin exams with a professional to rule out the presence of skin cancer.
Remember that the ABCDE method is helpful for identifying potential signs of melanoma, but nonmelanoma skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma may have different symptoms. Don’t hesitate to schedule a skin exam if you have any areas of concern.
If we identify a suspicious skin lesion or mole, we discuss the next steps with you. Sometimes, a skin biopsy is needed to confirm cancer, and in some cases, removing the mole or lesion might be your best option.
Take care of your skin with monthly self-exams and regular professional skin checks. To find out more about protecting yourself from skin cancer, schedule a consultation with us online or call the office at 817-336-9450.