May is skin cancer awareness month. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that an estimated 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. I recommend that patients perform a monthly self skin exam in addition to their regular skin checks with me. I instruct my patients to look out for the ABCDEs of Melanoma. A for asymmetry, or one half of the mole is unlike the other, B for the border becoming irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined, C for color changes, including color that is varied from one area of the mole to another, or a mole that contains mulitple colors including brown and black and sometimes white, red, or blue, D for diameter indicating a mole that is enlarging, especially one greater than 6 mm (larger than the size of a pencil eraser), and E for evolving, meaning any mole or skin lesion that looks different from the others or is changing in size, shape, or color, or becoming symptomatic (ie, tenderness, itching, or bleeding). Also any non-healing sores or new moles found during your self-exam should prompt a call or follow-up to your dermatologist. Early detection is best, as skin cancer that is caught early is highly treatable.
See the video from the American Academy of Dermatology below to learn more about performing a self skin exam.
Kathryn O'Reilly, MD, PhD