It may have been awhile since you were working on your ABCs. Or you may have just heard ABC on your Jackson Five playlist on your phone. Those letter sequences are fine, but you really should add D and E, especially considering we’re coming up on another New York summer when we’re all making our way to the shore as often as we can.
What’s that got to do with ABCDE? Those letters are a great way to remember different signs for identifying if you have skin cancer.
Yes, we’re all about getting rid of your hair at Romeo & Juliette, but we’re also about providing our patients with different health information here and there. Here’s some information on skin cancer.
Who Gets Skin Cancer?
If you’re a fair-skinned person, a trip to the dermatologist (hopefully that is a regular trip, as well) can seem like an exercise in liquid nitrogen abuse. You get spots sprayed here there and everywhere. But you have a friend with beautiful olive-toned skin who seemingly never has to have any spots sprayed or removed. What gives?
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.
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 for developing melanoma later in life.
Know Your ABCDEs
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 your 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 in size or gain height rapidly.
Try and remember these ABCDEs before you head to the shore this summer. And, of course, before you’re bikini-ready you probably could use a little laser hair removal. Call the team at Romeo & Juliette, (212) 750-2000 to schedule a consultation.