Skin cancer is sadly very common and can be quite serious. Early detection and treatment of all types of skin cancers are necessary to prevent the spread of the cancer to vital organs and other body systems. Learning how to perform a self mole examination is crucial to keeping yourself safe and healthy, and greatly reduces your risks of developing serious stages of skin cancers.
Skin cancers, including Melanoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), are generally caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (or UV) light. This can happen from exposure to the sun or from UV light through tanning beds and booths. Once the UV light causes the skin's DNA to be altered, skin growths can evolve into cancer.
Most people know that wearing sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher when spending time outside is very important in protecting the skin and preventing cancerous growths. Wearing wide-brimmed hats that protect the face and long sleeves and pants can also help. Remember that just one blistering sunburn can lead to cancer. Be sure to keep your little ones protected too, as they can experience DNA damage from sunburn early and develop an issue later in life. And, of course, avoid artificial UV light sources like tanning beds.
One in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer, so knowing what to look for is vital. Moles (known as nevi in the medical community) are how most skin cancers start. Most moles are harmless, and typically, adults develop moles on the body throughout their lives. But some moles could be showing symptoms of skin cancer without your realizing it. Below are some indicators to watch for that could point to early signs of skin cancer.
Does the mole have an irregular shape? Healthy moles are generally round or oval.
Are the edges of the mole jagged, notched, or irregular? Healthy moles generally have smooth borders.
Does the mole have uneven shading or dark spots? Healthy moles are typically uniform in color.
Is the mole larger than the size of a pencil eraser? Healthy moles are typically around a quarter of an inch in diameter or less.
Has an existing mole changed in size, shape, or texture? Healthy moles remain looking and feeling about the same throughout the years.
You should perform this self-examination of your moles regularly to keep an eye on any changes. Note that not all of these indicators mean that cancer is present, so don’t panic. If you notice a change, call your dermatologist to make an appointment right away. They can do a thorough professional mole examination and determine whether a biopsy is needed.
If you’re in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and would like more information about mole examinations, or if you think you have a suspicious mole, contact The Dermatology Group today for an appointment with one of our doctors.