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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Toni-Ann DiSantis

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types and the number of skin cancer cases has been on the rise for the past few decades. Currently, more than 1 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States. That's more than cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, colon, uterus, ovaries, and pancreas combined.

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to protect yourself and your family from skin cancer, or to catch it early enough so that it can be treated effectively. Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Much of this exposure comes from the sun, but some may come from manmade sources, such as tanning beds.

Nonmelanoma skin cancers (usually basal cell and squamous cell cancers) are the most common cancers of the skin. They are called nonmelanoma because this group of cancers includes all skin cancers except one, malignant melanoma. Cancers that develop from melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells of the skin, are called melanoma.

Spring Skin Check!

Dermatologists recommend doing a skin check monthly, so you’ll be more likely to notice any changes or even find a skin cancer when it’s still small. If you haven’t picked up this habit, now is the time to start. Be sure to examine your palms, fingernails, and feet, too. Although most skin cancers develop in areas that get lots of sun exposure, tumors may also affect these body parts.  Check yourself in a well-lighted room using both a full length mirror and a hand-held mirror. Become familiar with your birthmarks, moles, and blemishes so you know what they usually look like. That way you’ll be able to identify any changes more easily. Look for any changes in size, texture, shape, and color of blemishes, or a sore that does not heal. Get your spouse or partner to help you check those hard-to-see places. If you find anything that looks different, see your doctor or health care provider. Also, ask your doctor to check your skin during regular checkups.

-American Cancer Society

Checking Moles and Birthmarks

The ABCD rule is a convenient guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Here’s what you should be on the lookout for:

• A is for ASYMMETRY: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.

• B is for BORDER: The edges are irregular, ragged,notched, or blurred.

• C is for COLOR: The color is not the same all over, and may have shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, pink, white, or blue.

• D is for DIAMETER: The area is larger than 6 millimeters (about ¼ inch—the size of a pencil eraser) across, or the area has been growing. Another very important warning sign of melanoma is that a mole has been growing or changing its shape or color.

courtesy of www.cancer.org