May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Merely Me Health Guide
  • National organizations such as the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology have designated this month to promote awareness of skin cancer. There are some sobering statistics out there that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma is the deadliest of skin cancers and it is reported that person dies of melanoma almost every hour. (Source: The Skin Cancer Foundation) These deaths are all the more tragic knowing that skin cancer can usually be prevented. We are going to talk today about one easy skin cancer prevention strategy that doesn’t take much time and can ultimately save your life. We are talking about early detection of skin cancer through an annual skin cancer screening.

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    If you have never gotten a skin check by a dermatologist now is a good time to do. Spring is the time when many dermatology and skin cancer organizations offer free skin cancer screenings.


    Here is some information about how to find these free screenings.


    The American Academy of Dermatology sponsors free skin cancer screenings in the spring. You can check their database to see if a free screening is currently available in your geographic area.


    • You can also get a free screening through The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Road to Healthy Skin Tour  where volunteer dermatologists will make an estimated 80 stops in 24 states. Check their website to see if the tour bus stops in your city or town.


    The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery also offers free skin cancer screenings through member volunteers. Just enter your zipcode or state into their database to see if a dermatologist volunteer is available in your area.


    Remember that even if the dermatologist does find that you have skin cancer, if it is caught early, the cure rate is very high. This is true for most skin cancers, even melanoma. A yearly skin check can make this early detection possible. A dermatologist can usually perform an entire full body skin exam within 10-15 minutes. The test is non-invasive, it doesn’t hurt, and it may just save your life.


    For more information about skin exams please refer to the following articles:


    No More Excuses-Get a Skin Exam!


    How a Visit to a Dermatologist Can Save Your Life

    Study Shows Dermatologists Detect Most Skin Cancers 


    In addition to getting an annual skin exam The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommend that you do a skin self-exam  once a month to check for any abnormal moles, lesions, or skin changes.


    Here is our guide on how to check your skin.

    The American Cancer Society provides an easy mnemonic to remember how to check for melanomas. It is sometimes referred to as an “ABCDE” guide.


    A stands for Asymmetry:


    If you were to divide up a healthy mole into two halves, both sides would match up in shape and size. With asymmetrical moles, the two halves do not match each other.


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    B is for Irregular Borders.


    The colors may seem to bleed outside of the borders which may be uneven or blurred.


    C is for Uneven Color.


    Instead of one shade of color, there may be multiple colors present such as brown, tan and black. If a mole becomes a lot darker you should also get it checked out.


    D is for Diameter.


    If your mole is larger than 6 millimeters you may want to get your mole looked at by a doctor. Most of the literature states that anything larger than a pencil eraser should be checked out.


    E is for Evolving.


    Any mole, lesion or growth which changes over time should be examined by a doctor or dermatologist.


    They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If you wish to see comparison images of normal moles as compared with atypical mole please visit this photo page created by The National Cancer Institute.


    My motto has always been, “When in doubt, get it checked out.” If you have any suspicious skin lesions or growths it is always wise to seek the guidance of your doctor or dermatologist. It is always better to detect things early on so that you will have the best chance for successful treatment.


    If you have not scheduled your annual skin exam here is another reminder to do so. No excuses! Do it for you, your friends, your family and loved ones, and everyone who wants you to be happy and healthy for as long as you can.

Published On: May 09, 2011