Skin Cancer Fall 2013 Newsletter

This year, about 2 million skin cancers will be diagnosed in the United States. When diagnosed early, skin cancers can be easily treated and potentially cured. Even melanoma, the type of skin cancer that is potentially life threatening, can be cured when it is found in early stages. The key to early detection is monthly self-examinations in association with full body skin examinations performed by a dermatologist on a regular basis. Although there are no specific guidelines on how often patients should have a full skin exam, it is generally recommended that patients who are low-risk or have no previous personal or family history of skin cancer be evaluated at least once a year. Skin checks performed by health care providers specializing in dermatology allow for a more thorough exam, as providers are able to examine all of the skin surfaces that may be difficult for an individual to see on their own. This includes hard to reach places, such as the scalp. Additionally, dermatology trained health care professionals have expertise in identifying suspicious lesions that may seem completely normal to the untrained eye.

When examining the skin, it is important to be on the lookout for new or changing lesions. When evaluating suspicious moles, we look for the “ABCDEs” of melanoma. A is for asymmetrical shape, B for border irregularity, C for color variations, D for diameter greater than a pencil eraser (about 6mm), and E for evolution or a lesion that is changing. If one or more of these features are noted, a dermatologist or other specialized health care provider should be seen for evaluation. Being familiar with your skin by routinely examining yourself will help with being able to identify what is “normal” for you versus what may be atypical. However, if at any time, you notice something changing or concerning, seek the attention of a dermatologist immediately. Remember to always protect your skin with zinc oxide for example, EltaMD SPF 30 ($31) is a great everyday moisturizer that has 9% zinc oxide to help protect your skin all year round.