Summer Fun and Soaking Up the Sun...or Not?

May 19, 2014

Know the ABCDE guide to Melanoma

Warmer Spring temperatures seem to call us to go outside and soak up some sun while we garden or work in our yards. But health professionals warn too much exposure can lead to skin problems including skin cancer. The month of May is skin cancer awareness month and Mercy Hospital Carthage offers not only some advice for protecting your skin, but two free clinics to screen any areas that may be suspect.

Karen Fenstermacher, FNP, Mercy Clinic Primary Care, will conduct a skin screening clinic on May 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. and Dr. Kenneth Watts, Mercy Clinic General and Specialty Surgery, will conduct a skin screening clinic on May 21 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Both clinics will be held at Mercy Hospital Carthage; no appointment is necessary. Participants are asked to use the main hospital entrance.

Skin cancers can show up in many shapes and sizes. Be sure to show your doctor any areas that concern you, especially if they have just appeared or have changed recently.

As with many other health problems, prevention and early detection are key. Skin cancer is very treatable if found early. According to the American Cancer Society, the most important warning sign for melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that’s changing in size, shape, or color. Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin. If you have any of these warning signs, it is recommended that you have your skin checked by a doctor.

The ABCDE rule is an easy-to remember guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:

  • A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
  • E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

Some melanomas do not fit the rules described above, so it’s important to tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on the skin or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.

Other warning signs are:

  • A sore that does not heal
  • Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
  • Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
  • Change in sensation – itchiness, tenderness, or pain
  • Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a bump or nodule

Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important all year around

  •             Stay in the shade especially during midday hours
  •             Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
  •             Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck
  •             Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays
  •             Wear sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection
  •             Avoid indoor tanning

For more information about the clinics, call 359-1351.

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