Skin cancer is a preventable disease that often affects areas exposed to the sun's harmful UV rays. However, it can also happen in regions that don't typically see the sun.
You must check your skin regularly to evaluate for changes indicative of skin cancer.
At Life Point Medical, our team offers dermatology appointments if you have concerns about your skin. Dr. Timothy Scott Beck is our internal medicine specialist who quickly evaluates skin concerns and provides expert treatment options.
Understanding skin cancer
Skin cancer is a dangerous medical condition when abnormal skin cells grow on your body. Most people get skin cancer from too much sun exposure, which is unhealthy for their skin.
However, you can also develop skin cancer without long-term exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun.
There are different forms of skin cancer, which go by where the cancer starts. For example, basal cell carcinoma is a skin cancer that begins in your skin's basal cells.
Squamous cell carcinoma — the second most common skin cancer after basal cell carcinoma — originates in your squamous cells.
Melanoma, the third most common form of skin cancer, originates in the melanocytes, which help give your skin its color. Melanoma is a dangerous form of skin cancer as it can spread and form in areas not exposed to the sun.
Checking your body regularly for changes in your skin or moles is essential to maintaining your health and preventing the late stages of skin cancer.
How to use the ABCDE method
The ABCDE method is an essential aspect of finding skin cancer early on. Knowing the ABCDE method helps you find physical abnormalities to determine if a spot may be an early sign of skin cancer.
Each letter in this method represents a physical sign that can potentially link to cancer. The ABCDE stands for:
Normal moles look the same the entire way around, while cancerous moles look asymmetrical. When looking for asymmetry, look for any mole that looks different on one side than the other.
A normal mole should have a defined edge that's regular the whole way around. However, if you notice a mole without a border, an irregular border, or signs of scalloping, it may be cancerous.
Abnormal moles may have varying colors in the same area, including brown, black, white, or tan. Typical moles are the same color all around.
When checking your skin, think of a pencil eraser. Normal moles are usually small and symmetrical, while problematic moles linked to melanoma are generally about 6mm, the size of a standard pencil eraser.
A mole that seems to change in size, shape, or color is often a sign of a problem. During your checks, assess any mole that appears larger or irregularly shaped from your last evaluation.
Tips for checking your skin at home
Examining your skin is the best way to spot changes that could be cancerous early so you can get prompt treatment. You must check every area on your skin, even the hard-to-see places.
To check your skin accurately, you need a chair, hand mirror, full-length mirror, and good lighting. Remember, as you're checking your skin, think of the ABCDE method to find any abnormalities.
Another rule is to look for the "ugly" mole in a group of moles that sticks out from the others. If you have a place with a group of moles, inspect for any that don't look the same or are a different shape than the others.
It's crucial to check every area of your body, including under your arms, groin, and scalp. Skin cancer doesn't discriminate and can pop up on any part of your skin, even the hard-to-see areas.
If you do find any spots you're concerned about, don't hesitate to contact Dr. Beck for a dermatology evaluation.
Don't let questionable moles go without evaluation. You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Beck and the Life Point Medical team today by calling 706-782-0016 or requesting a consultation on the website.