As the weather heats up throughout August, sunscreen should be your best friend whether you’re on the beach, in the park, or just walking outside. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays can do a great deal of damage to the skin. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma—the most dangerous form of skin cancer—develops when ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds triggers mutations that lead skin cells to rapidly multiply and form tumors.
Complicating matters, melanomas often look like moles, and can even develop from existing moles, but they have the potential to be far more dangerous. The American Cancer Society estimates that melanoma will account for more than 96,000 cases of skin cancer this year alone. It is estimated that approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. Melanoma is much more likely to grow and spread to other parts of the body that can be more difficult to treat, and in 2019, it is estimated that 7,230 deaths will be attributed to melanoma.
Learning the ABCDE signs of Melanoma can help you to identify a malignant mole or melanoma and act quickly before it spreads. If you recognize one or more of the following on your skin, consult your physician as soon as possible:
A – Asymmetry: Benign moles are symmetrical, meaning that each half of the mole matches the other if you were to draw a line through them. If you notice a mole that doesn’t seem symmetrical, it’s a good idea to get it checked.
B – Borders: Benign moles have smooth, even borders whereas early melanomas look uneven, with scalloped or notched edges.
C – Color: Most benign moles have a uniform color – usually a shade of brown. Moles with a variety colors are warning signs. These can include different shades of brown, tan, or black. Melanomas can even be red, white or blue.
D – Diameter: Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than their benign counterparts. The diameter of the eraser on your pencil (about a quarter of an inch) is a good gauge for size – usually, a malignant mole is larger.
E – Evolving: Unlike benign moles, melanomas tend to change shape, size, color, or elevation over time. Keep an eye out for moles that evolve in this manner, or develop other symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting.
Now that you are literate in the ABCDEs of melanomas, you can monitor your skin for changes that may be concerning. Although most moles are harmless, you can never be too careful. In the long run, recognizing and acting on these signs early will make for many more enjoyable future summers.