Skin cancers

Since I’ve opened this particular can of worms, instead of merely ranting, perhaps I could pass along some valuable information.

Melanoma is deadly. 75,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma this year, and 7,500 will die. The rest will be mightily disfigured. Normally, melanoma begins in a mole, which grows, changes, bleeds, itches, or just looks funky. Know your skin. Go annually to a dermotologist for an all-over skin check, and I do mean all-over. Scalp, butt, crotch, armpits, the whole nine yards. Take photos of anything suspicious, so you can monitor it for slow changes. Bring any of those changes to your doctor’s attention.

Know the ABCDs of Melanoma.

A: Asymetrical. Cancer is not organized, so while most moles are relatively round, cancer grows in scattered patterns. If a mole has changed so that one half of it is a different shape than the other half, that’s suspicious. Get it checked out.

B. Borders. Because cancer grows in a disorganized way, the borders of a melanoma will be notched, not smooth and round like most moles.

C. Color. Melanoma can be all colors, from blue to pink, brown, black and even skin-colored (amelanotic).

And D. Diameter. Any mole over 1/4″ in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser)ought to be looked at and monitored.

I will add to this E. Elevation. My melanoma was a mole that grew from flat to tall.

But melanoma is not the only skin cancer. There are also squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas. All of them need to be diagnosed and removed as early as possible. These are not as life-threatening as melanoma, but they should be treated as soon as they are noted.

The bottom line is: know your skin. Pay attention to changes. Don’t tan. Stay out of the direct sun. Wear sunscreen and cover up.

Read more about it at American Cancer Society.

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