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Navarro Dermatology Blog

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Skin Cancer Prevention Tips: How to Spot the Signs Early

Taking care of your skin might be the most important thing you do all summer.

Skin cancer is now an epidemic with a record 2 million cases diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. One in five Americans will develop skin cancers over the course of their lives, which means it’s more important than ever to protect yourself from the sun.

Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, actress Gabrielle Union, who is partnering with Neutrogena on their Choose Skin Health campaign, and Dr. Doris Day, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University, visited “Good Morning America” Wednesday with the latest information on safe sun behavior and new technology that can help detect skin cancer faster than ever before.

Spotting the Signs of Skin Cancer

No matter what your skin color, you have to check your skin regularly for signs of skin cancer. The first place to check is any area that is sun-exposed: your face, neck, ears, hands and your back and legs if you’re at the beach. Don’t forget your arm if you hang it out the window while you’re driving. Balding men should check their scalps — even the skin exposed by the part in your hair.

The most common skin cancers are squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas. When caught early and treated, they rarely cause further problems. They are not always easy to detect, but if you have any kind of abnormality on your skin that doesn’t go away within two weeks to a month, you should go to the doctor to get it checked.

The more serious form of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanomas are often found on skin that is newly exposed to the sun like the backs of men, and on the backs or legs of women, now in the sun because of warm weather clothes.

To determine if an unusual mole is actually melanoma or any other skin cancer, you can follow the A-B-C-D-E guideline developed by the American Academy of Dermatology:

A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes.

B is for irregular border, meaning that the mole has indentations and cauliflower-like borders.

C is for changes in color. If the mole is more than one color or is uneven in its shading.

D is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than about 1/4 inch — think a pencil eraser.

E is for evolving. Look for changes over time, such as moles that grow in size or that change color or shape, or if they itch or bleed.

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