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ABCDEs of Melanoma

One in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some time in their lives. Nonmelanoma skin cancers are most common and include Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Melanoma is rarer but more dangerous. Early detection and treatment are the keys to skin health.

Learning the ABCDE’s of skin cancer can help you to identify skin cancer early when it is most effectively treatable. Use these warning signs when conducting a skin self-exam once a month. Look for changes in moles and other skin lesions. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that about half of all melanomas are self-detected. When any of these signs appear during a self-exam, contact Dr. Schuering to schedule an appointment.

Early signs of melanoma: The ABCDEs

  • Asymmetry: The shape is irregular, unlike common moles that are typically round or oval. If you divide the lesion in half and the sides do not mirror each other, the lesion is asymmetrical.
  • Borders: The borders of the lesion or mole are irregular, notched, scalloped, or blurred, not smooth and even as with common moles.
  • Color: A moles that contain a variety of colors, including shades of brown or dark black with red, blue or white spots, indicate a problem. Common moles are typically skin colored, brown or black.
  • Diameter:  A mole that is larger than a pencil eraser (greater than 1/4 inch or 6 mm).
  • Evolving: This is the most important sign. It means the mole is changing in shape, size, color or elevation; or new symptom occurs such as bleeding, itching, crusting.

Conducting a skin self-exam

When conducting your own skin exam, make sure to check your face, ears, chest and your entire body front and back, including under your arms, forearms, back of the upper arms and your palms and fingers. Melanoma can arise under a fingernail or toenail. Check your legs and feet, soles of your feet and in between your toes. Use a mirror to check your back, neck and buttocks.

Skin cancer risk factors

Skin cancers are caused by the ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds that damages the DNA in skin cells. Just one severe sunburn in childhood and adolescence can increase the risk of skin cancer. A previous skin cancer, a family history of skin cancer and age increase your risk.

Skin cancer is THE most common cancer diagnosis, but it is also the most preventable cancer!

Steps you can take to prevent skin cancer include:

  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more, even on cloudy days. Apply on all sun exposed areas including your lips. Reapply every two hours while you are in the sun.
  • Chemical sunscreens are different from blocking sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the best.
  • Invest in a good quality sunscreen. A 2017 study found that almost 3/4ths of the sunscreen tested don’t work or contain dangerous ingredients. Two toxic ingredients to avoid are oxybenzone and avobenzone.
  • Protect your children from the sun and sun burns.
  • Limit sun exposure especially between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Schedule an annual skin cancer screening with Dr. Ryan Schuering.

Florida is the sunshine state. Take time to protect yourself and your loved ones. When you need expert dermatological care, contact Dr. Ryan Schuering in Stuart Florida to schedule a consultation.


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