ON BEHALF OF MEDICAL GROUP OF THE CAROLINAS—MOUNTAIN PARK
We’re all eager to get outdoors during the summer months. From playing golf, boating on the lake, working in your garden or going for a jog, your outdoor activities place you in the sun—so make sure you are lathered with sunscreen before you go out.
The sun’s warmth may feel nice on your skin, but the longer the sun’s rays beat down on you, the more damage your skin endures.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun reach the inner layers of skin. This produces more melanin, or skin pigment, making the outer layer tan or red. These color changes are a response to injury and do not indicate good health. Excessive UV exposure over time could lead to skin cancer.
That dark brown mole on your back may be more than “just a mole.” The average person has between 10 and 40 moles on their body.
The number of moles you have can change throughout your life: new moles can develop and some may disappear as you age. But what exactly are they, and where do they come from? Moles are small, colored spots made of melanocytes, which are cells that create skin pigment.
Though most moles are harmless, it is important to keep an eye on them in case they develop into abnormal moles—called dysplastic nevi—which have the possibility of becoming cancerous.
You may be uncertain if a mole is cancerous or not, which is why it’s important to visit your primary care physician or dermatologist each year for a full-body skin exam. In between those exams, look yourself over when you get out of the shower and be on the lookout for any new or abnormal looking moles.
Use the ABCDE method to remember what to check for:
- “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
- “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
- “C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
- “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
- “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?
You should also let your doctor know if you have a mole that is painful, itching, burning, inflamed, oozing, or bleeding, as these symptoms may also be a sign of melanoma.
When you do your self-examination, make sure you check your entire body, as moles can appear anywhere, even around your ears, scalp, and underarms; bottoms of your feet, between toes, and under your nails.
While performing self-examinations are important, there are multiple ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer.