Guys…I think we have rounded a corner and spring may very well actually be on the horizon! Let’s get out our grills, ready our planters, gas up the mowers, and… check our skin! Threw you off with that last one, right? Hear me out. As we crawl out of our snow-covered holes and embrace the warm, golden sunlight we are also exposing our skin to harmful UV rays. These can manifest as freckles, moles, dark spots and skin cancer. The tricky part is knowing which spots are fine and which are worrisome.
So, you have a spot here and a spot there. Some have been there forever and others, well you’re not so sure about those newcomers. There are 3 types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. The first two tend to pop up on sun exposed areas. Basal may arise like a shiny, flesh colored bump that doesn’t go away while squamous tends to manifest as a scaling, ulcerating lesion. Both, if caught early, can be treated very successfully. Melanoma is a little sneakier and can pop up anywhere on the body. It can arise in existing moles or present as a raised or flat lesion. Prompt diagnosis is important as it too can be very successfully treated when caught early.
If you happen to be covered in a variety of spots and are presently panicking, remain calm. Let’s go over our ABCs (skin cancer ABCs, that is.) A) Look for lesions that are asymmetrical, these should be looked at. B) Borders. Check out the lesion and see if you can clearly make out where it starts and where it ends. C) Color. Normal moles tend to have a uniform color. Variety in color is great for art, not so much for moles. D) Diameter. Any lesion larger than 6mm (think pencil eraser diameter) should be looked at. E) Evolving. That mole you had since childhood is doing some weird stuff – it’s growing, itching, changing in color.
Alright, you now have a guideline to follow for a skin check. However, at least once a year you should be seen by a health care provider to get everything checked out. As we warm up and migrate outside, make sure you have your sunscreen on. I know. I know. You look great with a tan. They’ve come a long way in the spray tan world…. and we promise not to tell anyone your spray tan secrets.
-Brooke Rieth NP