by Beverly Matoney
Medically reviewed by Michael Ribadeneyra, M.D. FACP, Shelby Medical Associates
With winter winds and icy conditions all around, it seems strange to be talking about summer already. But this is an invitation to let us screen you for skin cancer now, so you will be sun-ready when the warm days arrive.
Of course, the best way to keep your skin safe from UVA and UVB rays is to cover your skin in clothing and cover your head with a hat. You should also apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen on any other exposed skin.
Sun damage adds up over time, so it’s smart to be aware of any changes in your skin as you age. It’s always a good idea to check any moles, birthmarks or discolorations on your skin for changes that may occur. With continued sun exposure and damage, these spots can develop into a melanoma or other types of skin cancer.
A normal mole is usually an evenly colored brown, tan or black spot on the skin. It can be either flat or raised, round or oval. Moles are usually small, less than ¼ inch, or about the size of a pencil eraser.
Some moles can be present at birth, but most appear during childhood or young adulthood. If a new mole appears later in life, it should be checked by a doctor.
Most people have moles and almost all moles are harmless. But when you are keeping an eye on a mole, birthmark or other discoloration on yourself or a loved one, here are some signs to watch for, also called the ABCDE rule:
Of course, not all melanomas follow the rules. Keep an eye on all of your skin and let your doctor know if you notice any new moles, skin spots or growths that weren’t there before or look different from the rest of your moles.
If you find one or more spots that you think need to be checked, or if you simply want to be screened to be sure all your spots are behaving, call our office today to schedule a skin cancer screening.
Before you come into Shelby Medical Associates to be screened for skin cancer, take a look at your skin and make a note of any moles or blemishes that concern you. If a spot has changed over time, itches, bleeds or is new to you, be sure to bring that up at your screening.
During the actual screening, the doctor will check your skin for unusual spots and also check any moles or blemishes that you point out. Don’t be shy. Any mole that seems different to you is worthy of extra attention. Skin cancer can even occur in places that don’t get a lot of sun exposure.
Of course, just seeing an area that may be skin cancer doesn’t prove that you have skin cancer. The only way to determine that is with a simple procedure called a skin biopsy. The doctor will numb the area to be tested and scrape off the mole or blemish. You shouldn’t feel any pain at all.
This small biopsy will then be sent to a lab for evaluation. Our clinic sends samples to a dermatopathologist, a specialist who evaluates skin samples under a microscope for cancer cells.
Almost all moles are not dangerous or even a problem. However, if the lab notices any abnormal cells in the biopsy sample, the doctor will let you know what you should do next. Often, a second in-office procedure is enough to eliminate the abnormal cells altogether.
It is important to take care of your skin in all seasons, because the sun shines year-round. Take some time this winter to have a full-body skin cancer screening.
You may feel anxious about the thought of skin cancer.
Rest assured that the doctors at Shelby Medical Associates want you to be healthy all year, and want to be sure any potential skin problems are caught early.
Take care of you. Take care of yours. We’ll be here to help you with both.