Knowing Your ABCDEs Could Protect You from Skin Cancer

One in five people will get diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. Regardless of your age, skin tone or whether you sunburn or easily tan. If you are exposed to the sun, you need to protect yourself.1

Protecting your skin

When you were a teenager, you probably laid out in the sun all day—maybe you even used a little baby oil or coconut oil to speed the process. All in pursuit of the perfect golden tan. We now know that “healthy” tan was anything but!

While it is true that a tan provides a modicum of protection from sunburn, the sun produces ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B light, rays that can increase your chances of skin cancer.

Sunscreen provides the barrier needed to block these rays from doing damage. Look for one with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply often. Your skin will thank you.

Know what to look for

Because it can spread quickly, melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer.2 Knowing what to look for could save your life.

Look for the ABCDEs:

  • Asymmetry. One-half the mole is different from the other half.
  • Border. The edges are poorly defined, irregular or scalloped.
  • Color. The color varies from one area to another. It might be white, red or blue or have shades of tan, brown or black.
  • Diameter. When first diagnosed, melanoma is often larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving. Moles or skin lesions often look different from other moles or they may be changing in size, shape, or color.2

Do you have a slow-growing patch of thick skin that looks like a scar? Or a bleeding, painful, or itchy spot? Or you might have a band of dark skin around a toe or finger nail or a dark streak under a nail. These could be signs of skin cancer as well and require immediate attention.

Know your body

Performing regular self-examinations is the best way to notice changes early – before there are serious consequences. The American Academy of Dermatology even provides a Body Mole Map that can be an effective tool to help!

  • Check all areas of your body. Use a mirror to check your front, back and sides. Don’t miss the soles and spaces between your toes and use a hand mirror to check areas like your scalp, the back of your neck and your buttocks.
  • Check each other. A recent study showed how effective it can be to have your spouse or partner get trained in spotting skin cancer.3 Are you at high risk, with many moles or a previous history or family history of melanoma? 4This training is especially important for you.
  • Get it checked. A dermatologist is best trained to spot skin cancer.2 Get regular screenings and see your doctor immediately if you have any signs of melanoma or other skin cancers.

1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed in their lifetime

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer. It’s a scary statistic for sure, but if you catch it early, skin cancer—even melanoma—is very treatable.