Your ABCs Weren’t Just for Elementary School
- Posted on: Jan 15 2018
While you may have learned a song about learning your ABCs where you were in elementary school, now that you’re an adult there’s another ABC reference you need to be aware of — the signs of skin cancer.
It’s easy to assume that since we’re not exactly near a beach here next to the Mississippi River in Swansea, we don’t need to worry about skin cancer, right? Wrong. And in the case of melanoma, it could be dead wrong.
That’s where the ABCs come in. Add D and E, and you have a handy way of remembering the five steps in identifying growths that could be skin cancer.
The key to beating skin cancer is to catch it early. Toward that end, Dr. Musick wants his patients to be knowledgeable about the warning signs, so here is some additional information on skin cancer.
Who gets skin cancer?
Fair-skinned people can get annoyed because every time they see Dr. Musick he treats with liquid nitrogen on their precancerous growths, while their darker-skinned friends never seem to even get sun spots. Why is this? It all comes down to melanin. Melanin is the pigment in the skin that helps protect it from the sun. Melanin is what is responsible for turning the skin a darker tone (tanning) after receiving sun exposure. This is a protection mechanism triggered by damage to the skin cells from the sun’s ultra violet radiation.
People with fair skin have less melanin so they are less protected. The ultraviolet rays from the sun can alter the genetic material in skin cells, causing them to mutate into cancerous cells. It’s estimated that 40% to 50% of people with fair skin (who live to be at least 65 years of age) will develop at least one skin cancer in their lives.
Different skin cancers carry different degrees of risk, and they form due to different degrees of exposure. Squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas are more common than melanoma, and they come from different types of sun exposure. Squamous and basal cell carcinomas are the results of the amount of overall sun exposure. Fair-skinned people who spend a lot of time outdoors will likely develop one of these two skin cancers.
Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, isn’t thought to come from prolonged sun exposure, but from the intensity of the various exposures. It is believed that melanoma is triggered by the scorching sunburns where the person’s skin blisters and peels afterward. Research has shown that just one blistering sunburn during childhood doubles a person’s risk for developing melanoma later in life. If you’re over 50, you’ve probably had many of these types of sunburns, mainly when you were a child.
Know your ABCDEs
Dr. Musick has a great way for you to remember what to look for when giving your skin the once over checking for suspicious growths.
- Asymmetry— If one half of the mole doesn’t match the other half, that’s a concern. Normal moles are symmetrical.
- Border— If the border or edges of your mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular, that is a reason to call Dr. Musick. Melanoma lesions often have irregular borders.
- Color— Normal moles are a single shade throughout. If your mole has changed color or if it has different shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red, then it should be checked.
- Diameter— If a mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil it needs to be checked.
- Evolving— If a mole evolves by shrinking, growing larger, changing color, itching or bleeding, or other changes it should be checked. Melanoma lesions often grow in size or gain height rapidly.
Don’t be fooled by living in the Midwest. We can get skin cancer just like anyone else. So, get to know your warning sign ABCDEs. And don’t forget to schedule your regular skin checkups with Dr. Musick. Call us at 618-628-2588 to make an appointment.
Posted in: Skin Cancer