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Monday, May 07, 2007

Skin Cancer & You : Learning How to Self-Screen

YOU are your own first line of defense.

Most of the spots on your skin — freckles, birthmarks, moles — are normal, but some may be more susceptible to skin cancers. There are three main types of skin cancers:

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Melanoma


Melanoma is the third most common form of skin cancer and the most deadly. Fortunately, each of these can usually be discovered at an early stage when they are readily curable. If you ever spot any freckles, birthmarks, moles or other suspicious or changing growths, see your dermatologist promptly.

The A, B, C, D & E's of Skin Cancer

Learning how to check yourself for signs of skin cancer is the easiest and most important step in reducing your skin cancer risks.

Stand in front of a mirror and check your entire body for moles, freckles, birthmarks or other unusual spots. Use a hand mirror to check any hard-to-see places. Examine each one, and if you notice any showing any signs of the symptoms described below, contact your dermatologist and schedule a skin exam immediately.

Asymmetrical : Most early melanomas are asymmetrical, meaning a line through the middle would not create matching halves. Common moles are round and symmetrical.

Borders : The borders of early melanomas are often uneven and may have scalloped, notched and fuzzy edges. Common moles have smoother, more even borders.

Colors : Common moles usually are a single shade of brown. Varied shades of brown, tan or black can be the first sign of melanoma, and may progress to the colors red, white and blue.

Diameter : Early melanomas usually grow larger than common moles — generally to at least the size of a pencil eraser (about 6mm or ¼" in diameter).

Evolving : When a mole is evolving (changing), see a doctor. Be alert for any change — in size, shape, color, elevation, bleeding, itching, crusting or any other trait — in an existing mole.

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