Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, is the one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and worldwide.
Early detection of melanoma is essential to improve the prognosis.
- In its early stages, melanoma can be successfully removed and monitored by regular skin screenings. In fact, its survival rates can exceed 90 percent to 95 percent (stage I). However, melanoma is deadly in its most advanced stages as few treatment options exist. Survival rates can drop to less than 20 percent (stage IV).
- There are several steps you can take in order to help increase your chances of detecting a melanoma early.
Carefully examine your skin once a month. If you notice any changes, consult a dermatologist right away.
- Look for changes with your skin, such as new skin growths and changes in the color and shape of existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks, with the ABCDE system:
- Asymmetrical: if a mole is unequal or asymmetric in shape
- Border: if a mole’s border is irregular, jagged, or indistinct
- Color: if a mole has more than one color or shade, including different shades of browns, blues, reds, whites, and blacks
- Diameter: if the size of the mole is greater than 6mm, or the width of a pencil’s eraser
- Evolving: if a mole or skin lesion looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, color, elevation or any symptoms, such as bleeding, ulceration, itching or crusting
- Thoroughly examine all parts of your body, including those areas that are normally not exposed to sunlight including your scalp, genitals and the soles of your feet and spaces between your toes.
Schedule a yearly skin exam.
- If you are over the age of 40, schedule a yearly skin exam.
- Regardless of age, you should incorporate a yearly skin exam into your annual checkups if you have any of the risk factors associated with melanoma, including:
- Fair skin
- Personal and family history of skin cancer
- Weakened immune system
- Severe sunburns (especially while young)
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (i.e. sun bathing or indoor tanning)