How to check your moles for skin cancer?

Sunday, 05 June 2022

Every year, thousands of Canadians and millions of Americans of all skin tones are diagnosed with skin cancer. Early detection is the key to stopping harmful cells from spreading to other parts of the body. We want you to know how to spot the potential warning signs of this serious and sometimes fatal condition.

How to spot skin cancer

There’s an easy way to remember how to check your moles for potential signs of skin cancer. It’s called the ABCDE rule. The acronym stands for asymmetry, border, colour, diameter, and evolving. And it concisely tells us what to look for.
Warning signs can also appear as lesions on the skin. They might have an irregular border and cause itching or burning. So watch out for those as well.

What you’re typically looking for is signs of melanoma. Melanoma develops in the melanocytes (cells that produce skin pigment or melanin). They’ll most commonly develop in moles.

Skin cancer in people of colour

In people of colour, growths are more likely to show up on parts of the body that get less sun exposure. Signs of skin cancer can appear on the soles of the feet, the palms, the lower legs, the genitalia, or as a dark streak under the nails.

In skin of colour, texture becomes one of the more telling signs of potential melanoma. So keep an eye out for raised moles or wart-like or scaly textures.

Compared to benign moles, melanoma has a tendency to change over time. These spots might get bigger, darker, or grow to have irregular borders. That’s why it’s important to use the ABCDE rule to keep an eye on your moles and conduct a self exam on a monthly basis.

Skin cancer ribbon

Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer

Sunburn increases your risk of developing skin cancer. In fact, just five or more sunburns can double your risk of various types of skin cancer including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and even melanoma.

What can you do? While you can’t make up for past sunburns, you can start protecting yourself now. You’ll have to say goodbye to tanning beds and start wearing sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 30) every single day and reapply as directed. That includes cloudy days, winter days, and sunny days spent indoors. It’s also best to opt for a waterproof sunscreen if you’re swimming or sweating in the sun.

Another way to avoid sunburn is by avoiding prolonged sun exposure. Try to hang out in shady areas instead of directly in the sun. You can wear a wide-brimmed hat or try UPF clothing, which protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

When to consult a dermatologist

Please remember that anyone of any skin tone can develop melanoma. So if you notice that one of your moles has changed, it might be time to consult a dermatologist. Causes for concern include moles that are:

  • Growing in size or exhibiting irregular borders

  • Changing in colour

  • Causing tenderness or itching

  • Causing redness, swelling, or pain

  • Bleeding or oozing

  • Changing in texture (e.g. becoming scaly to the touch)

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have anything to worry about, but catching potential skin cancer early on is absolutely crucial to your well-being. 

Dermatologists are trained to diagnose melanoma before it spreads. Using the ABCDE rule and reaching out to a dermatologist at the right time could be a lifesaver.

Different melanomas

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