While it may have been awhile since you gave much thought to your ABCs, living in sunny Texas there are some ABCs to be cognizant of — the ABCDE’s of skin cancer.
The days of baby oil and lying out on the roof are long gone, as are the serious tan lines of the Coppertone Girl. Today, most of us understand the damage the UV rays of the sun are causing our skin. To that end, education is essential.
The key to beating skin cancer is to catch it early. So here is some additional information from Dr. Walden on skin cancer and what to watch for.
Who gets skin cancer?
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.
The problem is, 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 is 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.
Three different cancers
There was a time when people had no idea there were different kinds of skin cancer. No longer. Most of us know the word melanoma, as that is the skin cancer that kills the most people. But there are two other kinds, as well — squamous cell carcinomas and basil cell carcinomas. Here’s the difference between the three types of skin cancer.
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. 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 of developing melanoma later in life.
ABCDE. These five letters can come in handy when looking for skin cancers on your skin.
- 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. Walden or a dermatologist. 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 or gain height rapidly.
We all like to be out and about in a fun place like Austin, but it is good to be aware of what the sun is doing to your skin so use sunblock over SPF of 35!