As we head into May and the warmest months of the year, many of us will enjoy more time outdoors. But as you probably know, too much sun exposure throughout the years can increase your risk of skin cancer. Would you recognize the signs of skin cancer if you began developing the disease?
For some reason, many people believe that skin cancer isn’t as “serious” as other forms of cancer, likening it to “spots” on the skin that need to be addressed. And it is true that deaths from skin cancer are less common, probably because cancer of the skin is easier to spot early in its development. But still, about 3,000 people in the United States die of skin cancer each year. So we should still take the illness very seriously.
If you have any unusual spots or blemishes on your skin, you can assess your risk of skin cancer by using the ABCDE rule:
A – Is the spot asymmetrical?
B – Is the border irregular, blurred, or ragged?
C- Does the color of the spot vary, including different shades of brown and black, perhaps even with some blue, pink, red, or white?
D- Is the diameter of the spot greater than ¼ inch (about the size of a pencil eraser)?
E- Is the spot “evolving”, changing in size, shape, or color over time?
If you answer “yes” to any of the above questions, you could be at risk of melanoma (the more dangerous form of skin cancer). However, there are other forms of skin cancer that, while less dangerous, should still be diagnosed and removed right away.
If you notice any spot, mole, or blemish on your skin that concerns you, visit your physician right away. He or she might refer you to a dermatologist or skin cancer specialist, who can determine for certain whether you need treatment for skin cancer. When caught early in its development, skin cancer is easily removed, and often does not return.
In the meantime, remember to use sunscreen, a hat, and breathable clothing that covers vulnerable areas of your body when out in the sun. Skin cancer might be easily treatable when compared to other forms of cancer, but prevention should still be your number one method of addressing this common illness.