05 May 2014 02:24:56 MDT Written by: Administrator

Melanoma: Learn the ABCs of Skin Cancer Prevention

In 1995, the American Academy of Dermatology established the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday to raise awareness about this potentially fatal type of skin cancer and to encourage Americans to practice sun-safe behaviors and examine their skin for suspicious moles and lesions.

When examining your skin for changes or growths, the American Academy of Dermatology says there are "ABCD" warning signs to be aware of:

  • Asymmetry - one half of a growth does not match the other half.
  • Border irregularity - the edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
  • Color - the pigmentation is mottled or not uniform.
  • Diameter - the width is greater than six millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser).
  • Evolving - a mole or growth that looks different or is changing in its size, shape, or color

In general, any unusual change in the skin, especially a new growth or sore that doesn't heal, can be a warning sign of skin cancer, and should be checked promptly by your physician. Any growth of a mole should be of concern too. When caught early, your chances for successful treatment are much higher.

Who's at risk

Since sun exposure is most commonly linked to skin cancer, people who have a history of frequent sun exposure as well as sunburns are at a higher risk of the disease. NCI says fair skinned individuals, especially if they have blond or red hair and blue eyes are more at risk, as are people with a family history of skin cancer.

Since the effects of sun exposure add up, the National Institute on Aging says our risk of developing skin cancer also increases as we get older. And people with a large number of moles can have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Anyone in a high-risk group should take extra precautions against skin cancer and talk with their doctor about regular screenings.

Read more about Skin Cancer in our Health Library