Know the ABCs (and DEFs) of Skin Cancer

Summer brings with it lots of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and the benefits that come along with doing so.   Being active outside can do wonders for your mental and physical health, and sunlight is a crucial component in helping your body produce Vitamin D.  However, continuous sun exposure in the absence of sunscreen can put you at risk for developing skin cancer, especially melanoma, the deadliest form.  While I’ve already discussed ways to protect your skin from the sun,  it’s also important to note that skin cancer can still occur even after taking all the recommended precautions (although protecting yourself – early and often – greatly reduces your risk).  For this reason, dermatologists recommend doing a monthly skin self-exam to check for new or suspicious moles which could be precursors to melanoma.  It’s also a good idea to have your skin checked out by your primary care doctor or a dermatologist once a year.  In the meantime, take a close look at the moles on your body and be on the lookout for any of the following characteristics:

Asymmetry:  one half does not match the other.

Border:  edges are irregular or blurred.

Color:  variable in shades or colors.

Diameter:  larger than a pencil eraser.

Evolving:  has changed over time.

Funny-Looking:  different than any other moles on your body.

The good news about skin cancer is that it’s highly curable if caught early enough, so if you notice any of the above signs of atypical moles, which have a greater chance of being, or turning into, melanoma, you should call your doctor immediately to rule out any abnormalities.

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