Skin cancer or melanoma forms in the melanocytes, cells found in the skin that produce melanin that tans the skin. Overexposure to the sun can cause melanocytes to cluster forming pink, tan, or brown moles. If moles begin to change shape, color or size they may be cancerous. According to the American Cancer Association, skin cancer is the most common of all the cancers with more than 60,000 cases each year in the United States.
Remembering “ABCD” can help you tell a normal mole from an abnormal mole:
- Asymmetry - One half of the mole does not match the other half.
- Border irregularity - The edges of the mole are irregular or not smooth. They may look ragged, blurred, or notched.
- Color - The color over the mole is not the same all over. There may be shades of tan, brown, or black, and sometimes patches of pink, red, blue, or white.
- Diameter - The mole is larger than about ¼ inch - about the size of a pencil eraser - although sometimes melanomas can be smaller.
* Source: American Cancer Society
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a MemorialCare Physician partner.
Risk Factors & Prevention
You are at a greater risk for skin cancer if you:
- Stay in the sun for long periods of time.
- Have a history of sunburns.
- Have lots of moles.
- Have fair skin.
- Have a personal or family history of skin cancer.
- Have a weak immune system.
The causes of skin cancer are unknown. By protecting your skin from the sun and having regular skin cancer screenings you can reduce your risk for skin cancer.
Ways to protect yourself against skin cancer:
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher before you go outdoors even on cloudy days.
- Reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating or towel drying.
- Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing.
- Pay attention to changes in your skin's color, texture and feeling, including itching, tenderness, pain, bleeding, oozing, scaliness or moles with irregular shapes, borders or colors.
- Perform a monthly skin cancer self-exam. See your doctor on a regular basis for skin cancer screenings.
Skin cancer screening, head-to-toe visual exam, recommendations:
- 20 and 30 years of age - Every three years for men and women.
- 30 years of age or older - Annually for men and women.