Did you know skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the U.S.? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there are 3.3 million people treated for skin cancer annually. Skin cancer is also one of the most straightforward kinds of cancer to cure, provided people who have it are fortunate enough to receive an early diagnosis and treatment.
Among all people with melanoma of the skin, from the time of initial diagnosis, the five-year survival rate is 92 percent, which is why it is essential to know what to look for so you can seek dermatological attention at the first warning sign of potential skin cancer. With that in mind, here is a guide to how to spot this condition so you know what to look for.
Early Detection Is Crucial
A head-to-toe self-examination should be your first line of defense against skin cancer. If you aren’t already in the habit of doing this self-screening, have a dermatologist examine you first. During this appointment, the doctor can take note of your existing moles or freckles and alert you to any that appear abnormal. When paired with annual dermatology exams, a monthly self-check is the best way to keep your skin healthy and ensure your peace of mind about skin cancer.
Be proactive about your skin’s health by educating yourself about what steps you can take to identify the early warning signs of this potentially deadly and disfiguring cancer.
Examine your skin regularly.
Recognizing and noting changes in your skin is the best way to detect melanoma early. During your monthly skin self-exam, use a hand mirror to look at hard-to-see areas such as your back. Download this “mole map” from the American Academy of Dermatology to help you keep track of skin irregularities such as moles, freckles, and sunspots.
Look for the ABCDEs of melanoma.
Pay attention to the following qualities of your moles or freckles, which are easy to remember using the mnemonic device ABCDE:
- A – Asymmetry
The two halves of the mole do not match up.
- B – Border
The mole has an irregular or vaguely defined border.
- C – Color
The mole does not remain a consistent color throughout. Moles may display shades of tan, brown, or black, and can even be white, red, or blue.
- D – Diameter
Melanomas are usually larger than the size of a pencil eraser at the time of initial diagnosis, but they can be smaller.
- E – Evolving
If you notice a mole or skin lesion that has begun to look different or change in size, shape, or color, this is a red flag; that’s why it’s crucial to make notes about all your moles and freckles and keep track of their appearance month by month.
If you notice one or more of these signs, contact our clinic to schedule an appointment.
Get regular skin exams.
Some people have more risk factors for developing skin cancer than others. They include people with fair skin and light hair and eyes; a history of severe sunburns; having excessive or unusual moles; or a family history of melanoma. If any of these characteristics describe you, you should consider discussing the benefits of scheduling regular skin examinations with us.
Schedule Routine Skin Screenings With Us
If you have never had a skin cancer screening – or if more than a year has passed since the last time you visited a dermatologist – please make it a priority to come see one of our board-certified dermatologists. We value your health, and we want you know an early skin cancer diagnosis and treatment could help save your life.
You can also contact our San Francisco office anytime to schedule an appointment with us. Please call our clinic at 415-362-2238 to book your appointment for a skin screening.