Did you know skin cancer is the most common type of cancer for us? More than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
It was those facts plus:
- Being a fair-skinned girl who burns easily, which is a group “at a particularly high risk for developing skin cancer,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Developing a large (about the size of a pencil eraser) dark mole on my back directly after a bubbling, blistering sunburn I earned six years ago while passed out on the beach in the mid-day Barcelona sun.
- Reading health information every day at my job at the WebMD Health Network (for example, how dangerous the tanning beds are that I frequented regularly before all high school dances — and who am I kidding — before my wedding and honeymoon last year)
that finally pushed me over the edge to see a dermatologist for an upper body skin evaluation.
Yes, it may have taken me six years to finally muster the courage to have my skin checked out, but I’m so glad I did. Just as I sneakily suspected, the Barcelona mole was potentially cancerous.
One was right below my right breast where the tan line can shift depending on the bathing suit. It’s no coincidence that it is a spot that’s been sunburned many times over the years.
The other one that totally shocked me was a tiny (about the size of a pinhead), dark mole on the underside of my left arm. I’ve never paid attention to it and have no idea when it appeared. I would never have guessed that one to be potentially cancerous.
I go back in a couple of weeks to have them cut out. I’ll keep you updated.
What makes these three moles dangerous is that they each displayed warning signs of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. They had irregular borders and varied in color from one area to another.
The good news is that early detection is the best weapon against skin cancer. Make sure to examine your body regularly for the ABCDEs of melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, you want to look for:
The ABCDEs of Melanoma
- A – Asymmetry
One half of the mole is unlike the other half.
- B – Border
The mole has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
- C – Color
The color of the mole varies from one are to another; has different shades of tan, brown and black; sometimes white, red or blue.
- D – Diameter
While melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
- E – Evolving
A mole that looks different from other moles or freckles on your body or changes in size, shape or color needs to be examined.
If you have a lot of risk factors for skin cancer, such as:
- Fair skin
- Family history
- Significant past history of sun exposure
you should probably see your dermatologist for an annual skin examination.
For more information and pictures of skin cancer, click here. For more information and pictures of melanoma, click here. (Quick disclosure reminder: These links take you to the WebMD Health Network where I work full-time.)
Please, please, please: If you’ve put off having your skin examined for skin cancer by a dermatologist, make it your No. 1 health goal to accomplish as soon as possible. Again, early detection dramatically improves your odds of beating skin cancer.
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