Are you ready for summer? It’s just around the corner and that means sun on bare skin!
So, it’s the perfect time to bring up the topic of moles. They aren’t the easiest subject to read or talk about, but the more knowledge we have, the better off we are. I’ve had moles as long as I can remember with one especially visible on my arm. It turns out that I’m not odd because most American adults - about 300 million people - have common moles. While I’ve never been concerned about them, as I age, I know the importance of having them checked out.
As I did research on this topic, I discovered answers to three of my questions, so I’m sharing my newfound knowledge with you…
1. Why should moles be checked?
According to our friends at eDocAmerica, “Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, occurring in over 3.5 million people each year.”
Moles come in many shapes, sizes and colors - with them, comes the risk of Melanoma. If you can spot it, you can stop it. Early detection is key. Skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable.
2. What should I look for?
Self-checks are always difficult for me, because I don’t “feel” like an expert. How should I know if there’s a strange lump or discoloration? Thankfully, cancer.gov has a great recap of what to look for! They note that, “…often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole. Melanoma may also appear as a new colored area on the skin.
The ‘ABCDE’ rule describes the features of early melanoma:
- Asymmetry. The shape of one half does not match the other half.
- Border that is irregular. The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
- Color that is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
- Diameter. There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than 6 millimeters wide (about 1/4 inch wide).
- Evolving. The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.
I’ve learned to be aware of any new moles or changes in shape or color. The Skin Cancer Foundation has a Step by Step Self Exam so you don’t miss anything and a Self Exam Body Map so you can keep track of changes over time.
2. Where should I get screened?
Obviously, if you see something concerning, you should see a physician. If you have a mole that’s changing, but don’t know if you should be concerned, there are telehealth and doctors online services that can help diagnose and advise via picture/phone/email without a costly, time-consuming trip to the doctor.
On my quest to get my moles checked, I decided to start with an annual physical with my family doctor. She looked at each one and all appeared to be normal with no cause for concern. So, I was cleared. Yay!
Some experts recommended seeing a Dermatologist because well, that’s their specialty. If you don’t know where to go, you might consider a health advocacy service. I tried this because I didn’t know which Dermatologist to visit. My advocate did all the research based on my insurance plan, and within a week I had a list of 3 local dermatologists. They also verified credentials and provided the earliest available appointment.
4. How should I protect myself?
Anytime we’re outside, in a car, or near a window, we’re subject to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which are directly related to skin damage.
Click here to read an article I wrote with 5 ways to protect against skin cancer. It’s nothing you haven’t heard or couldn’t do – SPF, shade, hats, sunglasses and cover-ups – but it’s a good reminder as we head into the summer months!
Now it’s your turn! Have you tried any of these tips? Are you going to? Comment below to let us know or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.