National Skin Cancer Awareness Month may be behind us, but with summer stretching ahead, now is a better time than ever to think about the impact of skin cancer and importance of sun protective behaviors. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, accounting for most skin cancer-related deaths. The American Society of Clinical Oncology estimates that more than 100,000 adults will be diagnosed with this disease in 2020 alone, with the number of cases having increased significantly during the past 30 years. The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms of melanoma that our Charleston, SC, Germain Dermatology team reminds patients to look out for during self-checks.
Melanoma occurs if the cells that give the skin color (melanocytes) begin to develop abnormally. The only way to know for sure if the skin lesion you’re concerned about is cancerous is to have it checked by a dermatologist. As symptoms of cancer vary widely, it can be difficult tell whether a mole is cancerous or not without careful scrutiny and—in many cases—a biopsy.
With that said, the ABCDE method offers some simple guidelines for what to watch for at home. Melanoma may present with one or more of these characteristics, so finding a mole that fits any of these criteria can be cause for concern:
- Asymmetry: The shape of one half isn’t identical to the other.
- Border: Watch out for irregular or “blurry” borders, with pigment spreading to surrounding skin.
- Color: Normal moles are typically a solid black, brown, or tan color. Melanomas are usually black or brown but may be mottled and can show uneven pink, blue, red or white.
- Diameter: Many melanomas are larger across than a typical pencil eraser.
- Evolving or Elevation: Be wary of moles changing over time or displaying new symptoms, such as bleeding.
Any new, unexpected growths or changes to existing spots on your skin should be closely monitored—especially if they develop different textures, weeping/bleeding, or itching. Another symptom sometimes associated with melanoma is partial loss of sight or growing dark spots forming on the iris.
This summer, you can practice sun safety by protecting your skin from dangerous rays. Stay out of sun when it is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.), apply high-SPF sunscreen frequently (even on overcast days), and wear protective sunglasses and head covers.