May is National Skin Cancer Awareness month, so why not take a moment to really examine your skin. It’s important because skin cancers like melanoma are on the rise, especially in younger women.
The American Cancer Society recommends checking your skin once a month using a mirror for hard to see places. “You should know the pattern of moles, freckles and other marks on your skin so that you’ll notice any changes,” they say.
Early skin cancers don’t usually hurt or bleed. They typically occur on the face, hands, arms, legs and back, but can also appear on less sun-exposed areas like the soles of the feet, under the arms or between the toes.
Here are the key warning signs to look for:
• Spot that is changing: a new growth, bump, patch or mole that just appeared or is growing.
• Sore that’s doesn’t heal.
• “Funny looking” spot: scaly, rough patches, flat and reddish; or small, raised, pink or red shiny areas that bleed after minor injury.
• Moles that have any of the “ABCDE’s” signs:
-Asymmetry: One half looks different from like the other half.
-Border irregularity: The edges are uneven, notched or ragged.
-Color: Uneven color with shades of tan, brown or black or sometimes red, pink, white or blue.
-Diameter: Greater than ¼ inch (about the size of a pencil eraser).
-Evolution: Changing in size, shape or color.
Most skin spots are not cancer, but any areas of concern should be promptly reported to your dermatologist. He or she will make a diagnosis by visual inspection and/or by taking a skin sample (biopsy). Skin cancers are readily treatable, but early detection is important.
American Cancer Society, 2008. “Overview- Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers,”
American Cancer Society, 2009. “Overview- Skin Cancer, Melanoma,”
National Cancer Institute, 2009. “What You Need to Know about Moles,”