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Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that won’t make you feel any better about it if you’re told you may have it. Most skin cancers are highly treatable when found early. But, again, the best news is that you can take steps to prevent them.
That involves protecting your skin and being on the lookout for skin changes.
The Skin Cancer Foundation says self-exams are a key to early detection. What you’re looking for are changes on your skin.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. So, doctors suggest two special strategies so that you are on the lookout for it: the ABCDEs and the Ugly Duckling sign.
Possible signs that a mole could be melanoma include: Asymmetry and irregular Borders, meaning a mole has changed to an irregular, non-circular shape or a less distinct edge between the mole and rest of your skin. Any change in Color is also important. Many melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. The size of a mole, or Diameter, is also key. Any mole larger than a pencil eraser may be a worry. Finally, everyone’s skin changes or Evolves over time. But see your doctor if you notice a new mole with these traits or changes in an existing one.
The Ugly Duckling sign means looking for something that is different. It might be one mole that is different than those around it. It might be larger or darker. It’s a sign to bring that to your doctor’s attention.
Protect Your Skin from UV Exposure Melanoma is caused mainly by intense, occasional UV exposure (often leading to sunburn), especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease. It’s important to protect your skin when you’re in the sun and skip tanning beds.
Just one blistering sunburn as a child or teen more than doubles your risk for melanoma. Everyone over 6 months old should follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology:
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Last updated: 5/24/2019
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