May has been designated as Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month by the American Cancer Society. Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer in the United States. Skin cancer starts in the cells of the skin. Some other types of cancer start in other parts of the body and can spread to the skin, but these are not skin cancers.
There are 3 main types of skin cancers:
- Basal cell skin cancers (basal cell carcinomas)
- Squamous cell skin cancers (squamous cell carcinomas)
If you know what to look for, you can spot warning signs of skin cancer early. Finding it early, when it’s small and has not spread, makes skin cancer much easier to treat. Your doctor can check your skin carefully during a routine cancer-related check-up. Many doctors also recommend that you check your own skin about once a month. Look at your skin in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see.
Use the “ABCDE rule” to look for some of the common signs of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer:
- Asymmetry: One part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other.
- Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
- Diameter: The spot is larger than ¼ inch across – about the size of a pencil eraser.
- Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
For more information about Melanoma and other skin cancers, visit the American Cancer Society.