Spring is here, summer’s on its way, and that means gorgeous sunshine, beautiful skies, lots of time outdoors with friends and neighbors…and increased exposure to the harmful rays of the sun. Although you should be checking your skin all year round, this is a good season to review the 5 signs of melanoma.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in the melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment melanin. Too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays can damage the DNA in those cells, which is what leads to the cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, unhealthy exposure to the sun is responsible for the vast majority of melanomas – close to 86%.
The good news about melanoma is that, with proper precaution, it’s largely preventable. Also, unlike many other cancers, it’s not difficult to detect it early if you know what to look for.
The 5 Signs of Melanoma
According to dermatologists and oncologists across the board, there are 5 signs of melanoma to look out for. These are known as the ABCDEs. While everyone should check their skin regularly, it’s a good idea to memorize this list and do a monthly body check if you or someone tends to get moles. So let’s take a look
A is for Asymmetry
The first sign is asymmetry. Regular, benign, nothing-to-see-here moles are symmetrical. If you take a ruler or even a toothpick and lay it across the mole, the two halves on either side will look exactly the same. With melanoma, however, the two sides won’t match.
B is for Borders
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the borders of a malignant mole are “irregular, scalloped or poorly defined.” Benign moles, on the other hand, have smooth, easily recognizable borders.
C is for Color
The third sign of melanoma is an unusual or irregular color. If a mole seems to have a few different colors in it – or if it’s darker in some places and lighter in others – that’s a sign that it’s time to head to the dermatologist.
D is for Diameter
Most benign moles are small. Melanomas, however, tend to be larger than 6 millimeters in diameter. That’s about the size of a pencil eraser. So if an old mole suddenly seems larger, keep your eye on it.
E is for Evolving
The last of the 5 signs of melanoma means you need to be vigilant about the moles you already have. If the appearance of an old mole starts to change – in size, color, or anything else – check it out immediately.
While we all hope that we never see any of these signs, the facts are that most melanomas are detected by patients, not doctors. And the earlier they’re caught, the better the chances of recovery.