The month of May is arguably one of the most beautiful months of the year. It’s a time when people can finally throw off their bulky sweaters and coats, and break out their sleeveless tops and shorts. With sunnier days and warmer temperatures, it also means that most people begin to receive more exposure to the sun.

This is precisely why the month of May is officially known as Skin Cancer Awareness Month. In this post, we will discuss why it is important to raise awareness about skin cancer, what to look for, and most importantly, how to reduce one’s risk for contracting this potentially deadly disease.

Skin – An Amazing Organ

Our skin is an organ, much like other organs in the body such as the liver or lungs. An interesting point to note is that skin is actually the largest organ of the entire body. Skin performs many essential tasks including acting as a protective barrier against unfriendly organisms such as bacteria, parasites, etc., it also helps regulate body temperature, and it acts as a literal physical barrier to prevent more invasive elements such as a cut or puncture from reaching internal organs.

Skin moles are one of the more commonly found elements on the surface of the human body. Moles are small dark spots made up of clusters of cells called melanocytes. It is these melanocyte cells that produce the pigment that colors skin. Moles can develop at any time, although most appear before a person reaches the age of 25.

Moles – What to Look For

Especially if there is any skin cancer in your family history, it’s important to become familiar with the number, shape, and size of all the moles on your skin. May is a good month to remember to take a few minutes to evaluate all the skin on your body and conduct an ABCDE test. ABCDE is an acronym for:

  • Asymmetry
  • Border irregularity
  • Color not uniform
  • Diameter > 6 mm
  • Evolving shape, size, and color

An annual ABCDE skin self-test evaluates several key components that can be indicators of negative changes in moles. The first test is conducted by visualizing an imaginary line going through the middle of each mole. Does each half look the same as the other? If not, the mole is considered to be asymmetrical.

Most normal moles have a border that is smooth and circular in nature. If a person has a mole that has a jagged or irregular border, this is considered abnormal. Normal moles also typically have a uniform color in appearance. A mole whose color is not uniform throughout could reflect an abnormality. The diameter from end to end of a normal mole is typically less than 6mm or 1/4 inch. If a mole becomes larger, it could be cause for concern. Lastly, if a person notices that they have a mole that changes over time in color, size, or shape, this could be a reflection of an underlying issue. Some of these changes might include a swollen mole, one that becomes red in color, or raised above surrounding skin.

This is why it is so important for individuals to become familiar with their skin’s overall appearance. If a change does occur, they are better able to recognize it. Anyone who experiences any abnormalities listed in the ABCDE test, should either contact a dermatologist or see their primary care physician so their skin can be evaluated by a medical professional.

Prevention

Ideally, prevention starts at a young age, but it is never too late to start taking good care of your skin. Both children and adults should cultivate a habit of applying sunscreen or sunblock before going outdoors, especially between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Look for skin products that offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Many facial products and moisturizers already have sunscreens built into their products, making them good economical choices.

Especially when spending time around water, sand, and even snow, wear protective clothing such as a hat and sunglasses and have shade available. All three elements, water, sand, and snow, reflect increased sunlight from their surfaces, further increasing the risk of sunburn for those not wearing sunblock or sunscreen.

Summary

If you would like more information about skin abnormalities or skin cancer prevention, contact your primary care physician, a dermatologist, or contact Cawley Rehab at: cawleyptfrank@gmail.com. You may also call us at 570-208-2787.