May is Melanoma Awareness Month

May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month.

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With the beautiful weather upon us, we all want to get out and soak up the sun.  Read about the dark side of a great tan.  Everyone regardless of age, ethnicity or family history should  have a full body exam at least once a year as cancer does not discriminate. Early detection saves lives.

The American Academy of Dermatology as well as many other cancer resources, recommend using the "ABCDE's of Melanoma" when checking yourself for signs of danger:

A is for Asymmetry: One half is different than the other half.

B is for Border: The borders of the mole can be scalloped, jagged, uneven or poorly defined.

C is for Color: Melanomas are usually dark in pigment, but they can be lighter; basal and squamous cell cancers are usually pinkish.

D is for Diameter: Melanomas usually are greater than 6mm. They can be smaller, but a general rule is to look for something greater than a pencil eraser Also look for something with an uneven color, usually different shades of brown or black when it comes to melanomas.

E is for Evolving: Warning signs include a mole that's different from all your other moles, or is changing in size, shape or color.  Look for anything that's new or that has changed. If you have a mole that was always there, but suddenly it starts bleeding or itching or bubbling up."

Also, keep in mind that skin cancers aren't always raised. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas can be flat, smooth or scaly; they rarely have pigment and can even look like dry patches of skin in the early stages. Melanoma can be flat or raised. 

Here are some helpful tips from the American Cancer Society to protect yourself against the sun's harmful rays.

  • Slip on a shirt
  • Slop on sunscreen
  • Slap on a hat
  • Wrap on sunglasses to protect your eyes and sensitive skin around them.

This is the time of year that we want to get out and enjoy.  Just be sure to protect yourself!