The ABCD's of Melanoma (from the American Melanoma Foundation website): A sudden or continuous change in the appearance of a mole is a sign that you should see your doctor. The ABCD rule can help you remember the symptoms of melanoma:
A for Asymmetry: One half is different than the other half.
B for Border Irregularity: The edges are notched, uneven, or blurred.
C for Color: The color is uneven. Shades of brown, tan,and black are present.
D for Diameter: Diameter is greater than 6 millimeters.
Other Melanoma Warning Signs:
- the appearance of a new bump or nodule
- color spreads into surrounding skin redness or swelling beyond the mole
- scaly appearance
To discuss skin cancer in this episode of Radio Smart Talk are dermatologist, Dr. Christine Mackley of Brownstone Dermatology in Hummelstown and Sharon Swanger, a Lebanon County woman whose skin cancer spread to other organs. Please list details of any skin cancer screening events in the comments section below.
Listen to the program:
What is skin cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, there are 2 main types of skin cancers:keratinocyte cancers (basal and squamous cell skin cancers) and melanomas.
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are by far the most common cancers of the skin. They develop from cells called keratinocytes, the most common cells in the skin.
Melanomas are cancers that develop from melanocytes, the cells that make the brown pigment that gives skin its color. Melanocytes can also form benign (non-cancerous) growths called moles. There are many other types of skin cancers as well, but these are much less common.
Scroll down to watch a video of Dr. Mackley talking about melanoma.
Who’s at risk?
A person's cancer risk increases if they have a family history of skin cancer, had a previous cancer themselves, or have red hair and green or blue eyes.
Dr. Mackley likens sun tanning to smoking: It is very dangerous and increases your risk.
She shares the following tips to keep your skin safe from the sun:
- Buy UVA/UVB sunblock People don’t apply enough sunscreen.
- People should apply 1 ounce (about a shotglass) per application.
- Reapply after spending time in the water. New labels will read “Water resistant” and the labels must provide how long with times (40 mins or 20 mins)
- Land’s End and L.L. Bean have a good selection of spf 50 shirts for kids
- Get good sunglasses with UV protection because UV can contribute to macular degeneration and melanoma
- Avoid tanning beds- they greatly increase cancer risk
When looking for a good sunblock, look for zinc & titanium in the ingredients. Those ingredients act as an umbrella for the skin and provide better UVA protection than other sunscreens. The skin has a wax barrier so the zinc and titanium is not easily absorbed, therefore is not a major health hazard. It’s important to remember that reflected light from snow and pools can cause damage, so cover up.
Read an Expert Journal blog about skin cancer warning signs and prevention.
One listener asked about getting a light tan while wearing spf 45. Any color means that there is some sun damage to the skin. But, it’s important to try to protect the skin as much as possible while active outside.
African Americans should be aware that they too are at risk and should look out for signs of melanoma which oftentimes show up on hands and feet. Black dots or stripes under nails should be a warning sign for skin cancer. When African Americans do discover melanoma, it’s usually advanced because it was not caught early enough. It is always easier to treat cancer in an early stage.