Skin Cancer Awareness Month Is In May, However, Every Day Should Be Skin Cancer Awareness Day!

May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, which can appear anywhere on the body — even in places that are not exposed to the sun.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.

Although anyone can develop skin cancer, there are factors that can put you at an increased risk for developing the disease:

  • Excessive and/or unprotected exposure to ultraviolet light, including natural sunlight, sun lamps and tanning booths
  • Having fair skin that burns easily
  • Having red or blonde hair, or having blue, green or gray eyes
  • Working with coal tar, pitch creosote, arsenic compounds or radium
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Having had even one sunburn as a child
  • Having an abnormal moles or a large amount of moles on the body (more than 50 for those under age 20; more than 100 for adults)

Moles can often serve as an indication of the development of a skin cancer. Some common symptoms include:

  • A change in the number, size, color or surface of a mole or darkly pigmented spot
  • A new growth or sore that does not heal
  • The spread of pigmentation past the edge of a mole or mark
  • Moles that change in sensation (itchiness, tenderness or pain)

For both those who are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer and those who are not, doctors encourage people to keep track of mole, freckle and birthmark patterns. You should watch for changes in the number, size, shape or color of these marks.

The “ABCD rule” is a format you can follow when self-examining marks on your skin:

  • A (Asymmetry) – one half of a mole or spot does not match the other half
  • B (Border) – the outside edge is irregular, ragged or scalloped — not smooth
  • C (Color) – the color of the mole is not the same all over
  • D (Diameter) – the area is larger than an eraser on the end of a pencil (6 mm).

Common ways to reduce your chances of developing skin cancer include doing things like staying in the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (when the sun is strongest), using broad-spectrum sunscreen year-round and avoiding sun lamps/tanning beds.

It is important to see a health care provider every year to complete a skin exam, especially if you are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.