For many, the summer months mean trips to warm destinations, more outdoor activities, and plenty of time in the sun. For just as many, the summer months also need to include staying safe while spending more time in the sun. Wearing sunscreen (and re-applying!), hats, and sunglasses are three simple ways to protect yourself from excessive UV ray exposure. However, you also need to be aware of your body and perform regular skin checks in order to spot any early signs of skin cancer.
When caught early enough, many skin cancers can be treated and cured surgically. It all depends on how far the cancer has had a chance to spread, though. For common skin cancers like melanoma, the longer-term survival rate is significantly higher when the cancer hasn’t spread past the skin and to other internal organs and lymph nodes. It’s important to remember the ABCDEs of melanoma when examining your skin:
Asymmetry: Do both halves of the spot or mole look alike? It’s more suspicious if they do not look alike.
Borders: Does the spot or mole have smooth and defined borders, or are they more jagged? Jagged or scalloped borders may be more likely to be a melanoma.
Colors: Multicolored spots or moles are more concerning features.
Diameter: If a spot or mole is greater than about six millimeters in diameter (or the size of a pencil eraser), it’s recommended that you get it checked out.
Evolving: Getting familiar with your normal pattern of freckles, moles, and other skin spots is crucial, in order to know if they’re changing over time in size, shape, or color. If they do, it’s time to call your doctor.