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Learn the ABCDE’s of skin cancer

What to look for in a mole self-assessment

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Monitoring your skin moles and growths can be very daunting. While some people have a few spots here and there, some have so many it is hard to keep track.  Let’s talk about a few key things to look for when evaluating your body for suspicious lesions.

It is so important to know what you have.  Again, this can be overwhelming, but the better you know your body, the easier it is going to be to find the changing lesions.

Take a peek at your body in the shower, while applying moisturizer or sunscreen, or even when you are at the beach. Become familiar with what you have. Most people make moles that generally look alike. These patients tend to have an easier time seeing the “ugly duckling” or the one lesion that doesn’t look like the others.

Other folks, however, may have what we call clinically atypical moles. These are moles that all look different but are usually just fine. These patients have a harder time finding that ugly duckling. No matter what your moles look like, it is important to know what you have and what you are looking for. Most importantly, you are looking for change...or evolution.

Many mole education pamphlets available include the ABCDEs. These letters stand for:

Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter and Evolution. If you have a mole or moles that exhibit one or more of these attributes, it/they should be evaluated by a dermatologist.

A - Asymmetrical moles don’t look the same throughout.  If one half of your mole doesn’t look like the other half, it is considered asymmetrical.

B - The border of your moles refers to the outside edge.  It should be well demarcated not hazy, scalloped, or irregular in any way.

C - As mentioned above, the color of most people’s moles are the same throughout or uniform.  Color can be tan, brown, red, dark brown, white or even blue!  But mole color shouldn’t vary throughout the same lesion.

D - Diameter is the size of your mole from one side to another, right across the middle. Know your moles.  A big mole is not necessarily bad and a small mole is not necessarily good.  But a changing mole is almost always something to worry about.

E - Evolution, to me, is the most important.  Lesions that are changing - whether they are bigger, smaller, lighter, darker, itchy, bloody or crusty - should be evaluated.

Self-skin examinations are every bit as important as the ones you get yearly in the dermatology office.  Get to know what you can see and have someone you trust take a peek at places that are more difficult to see like your back and scalp (hair stylists are particularly good resources for the scalp).  Anything questionable should be evaluated as soon as possible. If you have a concern about changes to your skin, contact South County Dermatology at 401-471-3376 or http://www.southcountyriderm.com/.

It's better be safe than sorry!

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.