May is International Melanoma Awareness Month. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that affects the pigment cells called melanocytes. It often develops in an existing mole, or can appear as a new dark spot on the skin.
While melanoma is the least common skin cancer, it is the deadliest. It’s important to detect it at an early stage, when it can be treated simply by surgical removal. Look at your moles or any suspicious bumps for the following signs, which dermatologists call “The ABCDEs of Melanoma.”
A – Asymmetrical Shape. Benign moles are usually symmetrical. Melanoma lesions are often irregular, or not symmetrical, in shape.
B – Border. A benign mole has a smooth and even border. Melanoma lesions tend to have rough, irregular borders that are hard to define.
C – Color. A benign mole is usually one shade of brown or tan. Melanoma lesions can have several shades or uneven distribution of color.
D – Diameter. Most moles are small. Melanoma lesions are usually larger than a pencil eraser (6 millimeters).
E – Evolution. Always check if your moles are growing in size or changing in shape or colour.
How do you check for melanoma, and how often? It’s best to do a self-exam once a month. Stand in a brightly lit room with a full-length mirror and a hand mirror. Then, systematically examine your body from head to toe.
First, check your scalp. Then examine your neck, breasts, chest and torso. Inspect the arms, including elbows and underarms, followed by the legs and feet. Use a hand mirror to look at your back, neck, shoulders, and buttocks.
If you see any cause for concern, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. Not all irregular moles are cancerous, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Lastly, prevention is key. Melanoma is linked to UV exposure, so you can lower your risk by using sunscreen and avoiding UV exposure. Read our article on SPF, which can help you understand the best way to get sun protection — a high SPF is simply not enough.
Share this article with your friends and spread awareness about this cancer!
Mei Hui - Managing Director/Pharmacist