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Know Your ABCs of Skin Cancer

skin cancerSkin cancer isn’t an unknown any longer. These days, we’re not out on a boat on the Chesapeake slathering baby oil all over ourselves and trying to “get dark.” Most people know that the sun’s UV rays are damaging their skin, or worse, causing cells to mutate into skin cancer. At the Laser Center of Maryland, sun damaged skin and skin cancer are something we care about, and we like our patients to have as much information as possible. So, here are a couple tips about the sun and your skin.

What causes skin cancer?

Exposure to sunlight is the main cause of skin cancer, but different types of cancer have different patterns. The ultraviolet rays are the culprits. They alter the genetic material in skin cells, causing them to mutate. The two less life-threatening types of skin cancer, squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma, are both the result of the amount of sun exposure you get. The more hours in the sun, the more likely you are to develop either a squamous or basal cell carcinoma.

Melanoma, the skin cancer that can be the most deadly, is different. The development of melanoma is directly related to extreme sunburns, you know, the blistering type that peel. These often happen when we’re children, especially in those old enough to have gotten their exposure before sunscreens were even invented. It is estimated that just one blistering sunburn during childhood doubles a person’s risk for developing melanoma later in life. Ouch!

Know your ABCDEs

If you can remember your ABCs it can come in handy when thinking about skin cancer. Think of the following letters when looking for skin cancers on your skin.

  • Asymmetry — If one half of the mole doesn’t match the other half, that’s a concern. Normal moles are symmetrical.
  • Border — If the border or edges of your mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular, that is a reason to call us at Deschutes. Melanoma lesions often have irregular borders.
  • Color — Normal moles are a single shade throughout. If your mole has changed color or if it has different shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red, then it should be checked.
  • Diameter — If a mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil it needs to be checked.
  • Evolving — If a mole evolves by shrinking, growing larger, changing color, itching or bleeding, or other changes it should be checked. Melanoma lesions often grow in size or gain height rapidly.

There’s no shortage of sunshine and outdoor activities here in Maryland.  Be aware of the signs of skin cancer, and do your friends and loved ones a favor by letting them know if you see something that should be examined. The doctors at the Laser Center of Maryland offer a FREE skin exam.  Call us at 410-544-4600 to schedule your appointment.

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