ABCDEs of Skin Cancer
As we say goodbye to summer, and warm nights give way to cooler breezes, we feel the transition in seasons. Tanned skin may start to fade and reveal skin changes, but what do they mean? Using the ABCDEs of skin assessment, you may want to consider if the new skin change could be a sign of skin cancer.
A = asymmetry- if folded in half, does it appear to be similar?
B = border- is the border smooth or jagged?
C = color- is the color consistent, or varied? Is it dark? red?
D = diameter- is the diameter larger than a pencil eraser?
E = evolving- has the lesion changed over time
The four skin changes that can occur due to sun or UV light exposure such as tanning beds are:
Actinic keratosis- a skin change that, over time, could evolve in to squamous cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma- the most common type of skin cancer. Although usually a localized cancer, it can cause damage to nearby cells and become disfiguring
Squamous cell carcinoma- the second most common type of skin cancer which can grow deeper, becoming disfiguring and damage nearby cells and structures
Melanoma- the deadly form of skin cancer
If a new lesion is noticed, use the ABCDE’s as you examine the skin. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if there is concern. A careful inspection will determine if this is a normal lesion, or if you need a biopsy to determine what has caused this change. It could be a normal variant (like a simple mole), or one of the four skin conditions as noted above, that will require treatment or further evaluation.
Prevention is absolutely the key to preventing skin damage ranging from wrinkles to skin cancer. Protect your skin (and eyes!) by wearing appropriate clothing, applying sunscreen frequently during exercise or activities, and check your skin for any new changes.
Follow the link for examples of each skin cancer so that you know what to look for during the self-exam of your skin.