I am doing my own little PSA here because melanoma is a cause that is very close to my heart. My stepfather is currently battling Stage IV melanoma, and I have seen first hand the damage that skin cancer can do. Skin cancer prevention is something you can do every day to prevent yourself from having to go through what he’s currently battling.
I spent a fair amount of my childhood out in the sun and not nearly as protected as my two boys are now. I am sure that my mother did put some sunscreen on us, but I know she was not as particular about it as I am now. Times have changed, and we now realize the damage that the sun can do, especially to young skin and I’ve vowed to take much better care of my own skin with a daily skincare routine.
Growing up on Cape Cod, I spent A LOT of time outside at the beach during the summer. I was a lifeguard one summer and even hit the tanning bed on occasion in high school—before prom, etc. I was younger and obviously not aware of the damage I was doing to my skin.
I am much more careful now to cover up. If I am going to be out in the sun a lot, I slather on the sun block and reapply when necessary. I always make sure that my two young boys are covered up as much as possible and covered in sun block. Anyone that has seen them knows how fair skinned they are!
Yearly Skin Checks for Early Detection of Skin Cancer
I also make a yearly appointment at the dermatologist to have a full body check of my skin. As much as you try to keep tabs on your skin, there are places that you would never think to look for abnormalities. My stepfather is a perfect example. Two years ago, he was down in Florida and had some bleeding in between two of his toes. Yearly skin checks are essential for skin cancer prevention.
My mother, who is a nurse, went down for a visit and knew immediately after looking at the area that it wasn’t good. My stepdad had a mole in between his fourth and fifth toes on his left foot that had started bleeding. Being a life-long athlete, he thought it was just something that had happened while playing tennis.
After a trip to the urgent care and a biopsy, the results came back as melanoma. He had to come back up to Massachusetts and start skin cancer treatment right away. The melanoma had spread to the lymph nodes in his groin on the affected side and had to be removed along with a toe. He has been in treatment ever since. Although the melanoma is now Stage IV, we are hopeful that several of the newer drugs will be able to keep it at bay.
What to do if you notice a suspicious mole
Melanoma is a very aggressive and deadly cancer, but it is often successfully treated if it’s detected early. PLEASE make sure that you have your skin checked on a yearly basis. If you notice a suspicious mole, make sure you get it checked out right away. There is a quick way of assessing whether or not a mole may be abnormal—it’s the ABCDE chart.
- Asymmetry – The shape of one-half of the mole does not match the other.
- Border – he edges are ragged, notched, uneven, or blurred.
- Color of the mole – Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, or blue may also be seen.
- Diameter – The diameter is usually larger than 6 millimeters (mm) or has grown in size. This is about 1/4 inch in diameter, about the size of a pencil eraser. Melanoma may be smaller when it is first detected.
- Evolving – The mole has been changing in size, shape, color, or appearance, or it is growing in an area of previously normal skin. Also, when melanoma develops in an existing mole, the texture of the mole may change and become hard or lumpy. The skin lesion may feel different and may itch, ooze, or bleed, but a melanoma skin lesion usually does not cause pain.
Periodically checking your skin for any abnormalities leads to much earlier detection of melanoma and early detection saves lives!