Skin cancer is an important topic of discussion, not only in the medical setting but our daily lives. We must know what we are up against, and how skin cancer may manifest, and how to protect ourselves from unnecessary harm to our general health and wellness. To date, the best information that we have been able to glean from research is that we should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, all throughout the year. Next, we have also benefitted from recognition of certain characteristics that may indicate changes in skin cells that could lead to cancer. We refer to these as the ABCDEs.
The skin cancer alphabet is a guide that every individual can use to assess his or her skin. These assessments should occur on a monthly basis, and should also be complemented by annual skin cancer exams in the dermatology office. The guide reminds us to check every single growth on our skin for signs of Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color variance, large Diameter, and Evolution. This is a good start, and it is only a start because skin cancer is sneakier than we may imagine.
We like when we can place things neatly into one box or another. Skin cancer is no different. When we have a sense of knowing what to look for, we feel safer about our long-term health. Of course, we do not recommend that any person goes through life feeling frightened about unexamined skin cancer lurking somewhere on the body. What we want, though, is for our patients to know how to go above and beyond; to follow skin cancer right out of the box that has been created for it.
One of the major aspects of skin cancer ABCDEs that tends to hinder full observation is color. We look for moles, and in so doing, the mind inherently looks for color. The problem is, there are growths, such as amelanotic melanoma, which do not have pigment. These growths are rather discreet in their characteristics, which include barely-there color and nearly indistinguishable borders. That does not mean such growth cannot be caught.
Medicine is constantly evolving, and our manner of checking for skin cancer should evolve along with it. When performing self-exams, it is beneficial to be mindful of what is normal for your skin. Are most of your spots small and dark? Then the appearance of a waxy bump on a sun-exposed area should stand out as odd; an Ugly Duckling if you will. The evolution, or change, of any existing growth, as well, is the good reason to call your dermatologist for a comprehensive skin cancer screening.
To reach our Teaneck, NJ office, call (201) 836-9696.