ABC's of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide. Make sure you know what to look for when it comes to melanoma and a concerning spot.

"The best way to check for cancerous spots is to follow the ABCDE criteria," said Lance Edgerton, FNP, family medicine specialist with McLaren Northern Michigan.

A stands for asymmetry
B stands for border
C stands for color
D stands for diameter
E is for enlargement or evolution

If a spot is not symmetrical, has jagged edges, is different colors, is bigger than 6 millimeters or has grown over time, it should be looked at by a doctor.

Common areas for spots to show up are on the shoulders, across the bridge of the nose, on top of the head, on the tops of ears and across the back. These are areas that get the most sun exposure. 

General risk factors for skin cancer include family history of skin cancer, frequent use of tanning beds, genetics including the red hair phenotype (blonde or red hair, freckled and light skin), people who have had radiation therapy in childhood, the immunocompromised, excessive sun exposure as a child and many peeling sunburns.

"Studies have shown that your overall lifetime risk of developing melanoma climbs 80 percent if you had five or more blistering burns in childhood," said Edgerton. "It is important to teach safe sun care from a young age to protect future health outcomes. Just remember Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses."

Know the 5 W's (&H) of Sunscreen

WHO: Everyone under the sun
WHAT: Broad spectrum SPF 15 or higher; SPF 30 or higher for a day outdoors
WHEN: Every day; 30 minutes prior to going outdoors. Reapply every two hours.
WHERE: All exposed skin
HOW: One ounce (shot glass full) to entire body for each application.
WHY: Reduced your risk of skin damage and skin cancer.

It's important to always do skin spot checks to ensure that if you develop skin cancer it is diagnosed and treated quickly. Call your doctor today for a skin check. 

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