To raise awareness of melanoma and other types of skin cancer, and to encourage early detection through self-exams, the American Academy of Dermatology designates the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday®.
Melanoma is a potentially deadly form of skin cancer that can often be prevented or successfully treated with early detection. In recognition of Melanoma Monday, Dr. Timothy Jochen, founder of Contour Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center, shares essential tips for self-exams to raise awareness of melanoma and the importance of early detection.
Tip 1: Know the ABCDEs of Melanoma
When examining your skin, be familiar with the ABCDE guidelines for identifying melanoma:
- Asymmetry: If one half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other half.
- Border: Irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined borders.
- Color: Varied colors, including shades of tan, brown, black, white, red, or blue.
- Diameter: Melanomas are usually larger than 6mm (about the size of a pencil eraser), but they can be smaller.
- Evolving: Moles or skin lesions that change in size, shape, or color.
Tip 2: Perform Monthly Self-Exams
Regular self-examinations increase the likelihood of spotting changes in your skin early. To perform a thorough self-exam, follow these steps:
- Examine your face, neck, and scalp, using a mirror and comb or hairdryer to part your hair.
- Inspect your hands, including your nails, palms, and the skin between your fingers.
- Use a full-length mirror to check your arms, underarms, and torso (both front and back).
- Sit down to examine your legs, feet, and the skin between your toes. Don’t forget to check your toenails and soles.
- Use a hand mirror or enlist the help of a partner to examine hard-to-see areas, like the back of your thighs, buttocks, and genital area.
Tip 3: Document and Monitor Your Moles
Take pictures of your moles or use a body mole map to track their appearance over time. This helps you notice any changes and provides a reference for your dermatologist.
Tip 4: Understand Your Risk Factors
Certain factors can increase your risk of developing melanoma, such as:
- A family history of melanoma.
- A history of sunburns, especially during childhood.
- A high number of moles (50 or more).
- Fair skin, light hair, and light eyes.
- A weakened immune system.
- A history of indoor tanning. Knowing your risk factors can help you stay vigilant and take extra precautions to protect your skin.
Tip 5: Practice Sun Safety
Reducing your exposure to UV radiation can lower your risk of developing melanoma. Practice sun safety by:
- Wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30, even on cloudy days.
- Seeking shade during peak UV hours (10 AM – 4 PM).
- Wearing protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses.
- Avoiding tanning beds.
Melanoma is a serious health concern, but with increased awareness and proactive self-examinations, you can take control of your skin health. Remember to follow Dr. Jochen’s tips for self-exams, understand your risk factors, and practice sun safety to minimize your risk of melanoma. Early detection is crucial in treating melanoma, so make an appointment with a dermatologist if you notice any concerning changes in your skin. Together, we can raise awareness and reduce the impact of melanoma on our communities.