Watch out for these signs of melanoma skin cancer

May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 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 Beth Layhe, DO, oncologist, Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing. "A stands for asymmetry, B stands for border, C stands for color, D stands for diameter, and 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.

"About three or four years ago, when looking in the mirror I noticed a spot on my shoulder. I work in oncology and pay attention to my skin, knowing the risks of skin cancer," said Dr. Layhe. "At first, I thought it might have been an injury from a cat scratch, but I kept a close eye on it. In a few days the scab came off, but a week later I noticed it was back. I had it biopsied and sure enough it was melanoma."

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 Dr. Layhe. "I had many peeling sunburns as a kid and wasn't surprised by my diagnosis. I had the lesion removed and biopsied and was diagnosed with stage 3 skin cancer. I went through treatment, which included chemotherapy, and won. I am a survivor."

It's important to always do skin spot checks to ensure that if you develop skin cancer it is diagnosed and treated quickly. If you are diagnosed with skin cancer and need treatment, visit Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing, or call (517) 272-1950 for more information.