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Save your skin

Are you at high risk for skin cancer? What to look for and how to catch it early

Spending too much time in the sun without proper UV protection can increase your chances of developing skin cancer, but two people who spend an equal amount of time in the sun are not necessarily at equal risk. Genetics and your history of sun exposure can make some more susceptible than others.
Our checklist below can help you determine if you’re at high risk for skin cancer.

  • You have fair skin (Type 1 or Type 2). Your skin tans very little or not at all and you burn easily.
  • You have freckles or moles in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.
  • You were severely sunburned as a child or spent a lot of time in the sun (especially between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) in childhood and adolescence.
  • There is a history of skin cancer in your family.
  • You have a lot of moles, including some that are large, irregularly shaped or uneven in colour.
If any of the above sound like you, don’t panic! It just means you need to be extra vigilant about wearing sunscreen and protecting yourself from the sun.

IDENTIFYING SUSPICIOUS MOLES: AS EASY AS ABC(DE)

Catching suspicious moles early is key when it comes to treating and curing skin cancer—but you have a whole lot of lumps and bumps to keep track of and, as far as you’re concerned, they all look a bit sketchy. How are you supposed to know what qualifies as “suspicious” if you’re not a trained dermatologist?
The ABCDE method is a set of guidelines created by dermatologists to help you recognize and identify suspicious moles. Use it to check your beauty spots—and those of your loved ones—regularly.

  • Assymetry – If you “folded” your mole in half, would both sides be identical?
  • Borders – Are the edges jagged or irregular instead of smooth?
  • Colour – Is the mole one solid colour or is it a funky mix of black, brown and/or red?
  • Diameter – While melanomas aren’t necessarily large, any mole that’s more than 6mm wide should be monitored extra closely.
  • Evolution – Does your mole look like it’s auditioning for a role on Extreme Makeover? If it’s been around for a while but has drastically changed its look (think colour and size), get it checked by a doctor immediately.

Statistics show that 70% of melanomas do not originate from pre-existing moles*, so make sure to keep an eye out for new moles, as well as monitor for changes in old ones.

SKIN SELF-EXAMINATION: WHERE DO I LOOK?

Helpful Hint: Skin cancer doesn’t only show up in areas that are regularly exposed to the sun. Moles are like stealth ninjas, hiding out where you least expect them. Be sure to check hidden areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, the soles of your feet and behind your knees. Use a hairdryer to help with inspecting your scalp, and a mirror to check the back of your head. Or pair up with a friend so you can check each other’s blind spots!

WHEN IN DOUBT, CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL

If you’re considered at high risk for skin cancer; if you’ve noticed a new, suspicious lesion or a mole that’s dramatically changed in appearance; or if you’ve never had your skin checked by a doctor, it’s a good idea to get a preventive skin check-up from a dermatologist.

Remember that unprotected sun exposure can cause moles to develop into skin cancer , so it’s absolutely vital that in addition to checking your moles regularly, you make proper sun protection a part of your daily skin routine, especially if you belong to a high risk group.

*http://www.euromelanoma.org/intl/node/77

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