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Skin Cancer Prevention

May is Skin Cancer Prevention month!
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, but fortunately it’s also the most preventable.

This month is also time to raise awareness about the disease that will see almost five million cases come to light in the United States this year, as May is National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention month.

Dr. Anne-Battiste Barnwell-Grayson, general surgeon, says the first word that comes to mind when she thinks about skin cancer is “deadly." 

“Melanoma is the most virulent and aggressive of the three major types of skin cancer and has the poorest prognosis for advanced forms of the disease,” she said. “Individuals are strongly encouraged to have all skin lesions examined by a healthcare professional; particularly those that are pigmented. However, some melanomas have less pigment than normal. This is why it is best to recommend that any skin lesion that appears suddenly, increases in size, is easily irritated, and/or has a dark or irregular appearance should be examined and/or removed for complete analysis.”

About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 85 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. By sharing facts about the dangers of unprotected exposure and encouraging people to check their skin for warning signs, lives can be saved.

Cancer is often referred to as “The Big C.” Skin cancer, though, is known as “The Big See,” because it can be seen. Yet it still often goes undetected in the early stages.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with 5.4 million diagnosed annually. Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer and highly treatable when detected early.

“During awareness month and every day, everyone is encouraged to be diligent about doing skin checks from the top of the head to the toenails and soles of feet,” said Barnwell-Grayson. “Any suspicious findings should be examined by a healthcare professional and possibly biopsied. Sunbathing and tanning beds should be avoided and protective creams and clothing should be worn. This is not to suggest that sun exposure be eliminated. It is necessary to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. As with most things, moderation is the key.”

To help spread awareness and make the melanoma warning signs memorable, the signs of a possible malignant mole can be abbreviated to the mnemonic: ABCDE

• A – Asymmetry: is the mole asymmetrical? If you imagine a line drawn across the center of the mole, if the two halves do not match then they are considered asymmetrical. If you have an asymmetrical mole seek medical assistance.

• B – Border: does the border or edge of the mole look uneven? If so, please seek medical advice.

• C – Color: is the mole one uniform color? If there are several colors or shades of a color within a mole this could be a warning sign. Seek medical assistance.

• D – Diameter: how big is the mole? Melanomas often have a diameter of six millimeters.

• E – Evolving: has the mole changed in shape, size or color? Have you noticed any other changes such as bleeding, itching or puss coming from the mole? These may be signs of a malignant mole so seek medical assistance.

Melanoma and Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month began as National Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection Week, a House Joint Resolution signed by President Ronald Reagan in March 1985. It was later moved to the entire month of May.
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