About 20% of all Americans will experience skin cancer by the age of 70. It’s the most common form of the disease and, fortunately, it’s also one of the most survivable. While moles on your skin are harmless, some forms of cancer can mimic their appearance or a cancerous lesion may form at the site of a mole.
Regular skin checks with a qualified dermatologist like Dr. Clement Banda at MD Vein and Skin Specialists is an excellent way to stay on top of emerging skin cancers, and you can increase your level of protection by checking your skin at home. The ABCDE method is an easy to remember and simple to perform check.
Origins of skin cancer
Most skin cancers result from sun exposure, as portions of the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum can damage DNA in skin, causing the changes that later become cancerous. The effects are cumulative, adding up over years of unprotected time spent outdoors.
However, skin cancers can also start in places that rarely see the sun. Genetics can also play a role, so even if you’re careful about sun protection, there’s still a risk. Self-exams for skin cancer add a layer of protection against unwanted surprises. There’s an easy, 5-step process to keep an eye on moles and dark spots on your skin.
Common moles are generally round or oval in shape, though they might have some variance from perfect geometry, sometimes seeming a bit flattened. Melanomas, however, tend to be asymmetrical. One half of the spot doesn’t match the other half. A spot that’s very irregular in shape is suspicious
The edge of an ordinary mole is usually even, formed from clumps of dark pigment in the skin. Cancerous spots appear irregular around the edges. They can have jagged edges or they might appear blurry when compared to other moles.
While common moles might vary in tone, some being lighter or darker, they’re usually all of a similar hue, and each mole is evenly colored, even if slightly different from its neighbors. Skin cancer spots are more likely to be mottled, mixing light and dark in a single spot, or having colors not found in other moles on your body.
Size is another indicator when evaluating dark spots on your body. Moles are typically smaller than a pea in diameter. If a spot is larger than that, it’s time to discuss it with Dr. Banda.
Over time, you’ll come to recognize the moles on your body. Normal moles are usually slow to change, if their appearance alters at all. Cancers tend to evolve more quickly, changing in size, shape or color.
Use mirrors or a smartphone camera to view those places on your body that you can’t see directly. Whenever a spot meets one of the ABCDE criteria, it’s time to contact MD Vein and Skin Specialists for a medical examination. Call the Columbia, Maryland, office directly, or request an appointment online using the link on this page. Early detection means easy treatment, so book your skin exam now.