Identifying the Early Signs of Melanoma
When we think about skin cancer we often think of melanoma. That’s because melanoma is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer. The good news is that if caught early enough, melanoma is highly treatable. Of course, this also means playing an active role in keeping your skin protected against the sun, as well as knowing how to spot a suspicious mole when it develops.
Do you know your risk factors?
While anyone can develop skin cancer there are certain factors that could predispose you to develop melanoma over your lifetime. These factors include,
- Past sunburns
- Family history of skin cancer, particularly melanoma
- Long-term sun exposure (e.g. working outdoors)
- Tanning bed use
- Having a lot of moles
- Fair skin
Do you know your ABCDEs?
Now, being able to spot warning signs of melanoma is incredibly important. While everyone can benefit from visiting the dermatologist once a year for a full-on skin cancer screening; often, the best way to catch skin cancer is by examining your skin regularly to look for changes. The ABCDEs of detecting melanoma refer to:
Moles stay the same as you get older, so if you notice a mole that has:
- Suddenly become raised
- Developed an uneven or ragged border
- Become asymmetrical
- Grown larger
- Changed colors or developed multiple colors
Then it’s time to see a dermatologist.
Can I protect myself against melanoma?
While we can’t change a family history of melanoma, we can make sure that you practice good habits when it comes to protecting your skin. There are steps that you can take every day to lessen your chance of developing melanoma. These steps include:
- Applying a UVA/UVB sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30
- Applying about a shot glass-sized amount of sunscreen to your body and face about 30 minutes before going outside
- Reapplying sunscreen every two hours
- Reapplying sunscreen immediately after you’ve been swimming or sweating
- Staying in the shade or avoid being outside during the hours of 10 am-4 pm, when the sun’s rays are the most dangerous
- Wearing protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses (there is even specialty clothing designed to block out UVA/UVB rays)