Know Your ABCs When It Comes to Skin Cancer

skin cancerIn Hawaii, we really don’t have a winter “off-season” for skin cancer. All year long the sun keeps on keepin’ on. And we love it! But we do have to pay attention to the damaging effects the sun has on our skin. Of course, the ultimate “effect” is skin cancer.

At Matsuda, we see the effects of the sun on our patients’ skin every day and we’re ever diligent in looking for signs of skin cancer when examining our patients. But you also need to pay attention at home. Skin cancer doesn’t necessarily time its appearance right before your yearly skin checkup at our offices.

Self-exams are important. To spot either melanoma or other skin cancers take note of any new moles or growths. And keep an eye on existing growths, checking if they change color or shape or grow significantly.

There’s a simple way to remember what to look for. At Matsuda, we call it the ABCDEs of Melanoma:

A = Asymmetry
What does this mean? If you draw a line through a mole and the sides match, the mole is symmetrical. If you draw and line and the two sides don’t match, it’s asymmetrical. That is a warning sign of melanoma.

B = Border
A benign mole has smooth, even borders. Melanomas feature borders that are uneven; they may be scalloped or notched. This is especially true when melanomas first show themselves.

C = Color
Most benign moles are all the same color. That color doesn’t mean anything. But a mole that has a variety of colors is trouble and a sign of melanoma. These colors could be shades of brown, tan, or black, but may also be red, white, or blue.

D = Diameter
Small moles usually mean harmless moles. Larger moles are often malignant. Judge by the eraser on a pencil (roughly ¼ inch). If the mole is larger than your eraser, it could be melanoma.

E = Evolving
Change is bad with moles. Benign moles should look the same over time. Be aware of any mole that evolves or changes in any way. These changes to watch for are size, shape, color, elevation, or any other noticeable difference. Also, if they change characteristics, for instance, itching, bleeding, or crusting is something to note.

Equally important is a yearly skin checkup with the team at Matsuda. Early diagnosis with melanoma is very important in beating it. We know what to look for and will give your entire body a once over. Call us at 808-949-7568 to make your appointment.