Skin Cancer Awareness month

get your moles checked to prevent skin cancerWhen people hear the word cancer they can’t help but feel a little scared.

Even if they haven’t suffered from it themselves the chances of knowing someone who is living with or has died from cancer are big.

People do a lot of things to help others and to protect themselves: they raise money for cancer research organizations, they do self-examinations of their body, they get vaccinations, but what about the little things like,

  • Not staying out in the sun for long periods of time between 10am and 4pm
  • Avoiding getting a tan, and UV tanning booths
  • Maybe just remembering to use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually and each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of other commont types like breast cancer.

It is said that one in five Americans will develop it in the course of a lifetime. So, why aren’t people doing everything in their power to stay safe during the sunny days?

Because they want to hide their natural pale skin.

They go through desperate -and dangerous- actions to get what they want without thinking twice about the risks. But why do they so desperately want a tan? Having a tan isn’t something society has brought on.

Yes, people who go get a tan might have gotten inspired by seeing a specific celebrity and want to get it themselves, but in style, there’s nothing that says you have to have either a tanned or paled skin.

Both are in style.

Melanoma

Jennifer Morrison, moles removedIn November 2011, actress Jennifer Morrison did an interview with US Magazine called “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me: Jennifer Morrison”. Most of them were fun facts about her, but number 22 was more serious.

“22. I have seven scars from having moles removed.
One was a melanoma, six were precancerous. Get your moles checked!”

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and these cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.

Melanomas often resemble moles; some develop from moles. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is caused mainly by intense, occasional UV exposure (frequently leading to sunburn), especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease.

The “Ugly Duckling” Sign

To us the “Ugly Duckling” is something beautiful and amazing, but in the world of skin cancer it is a way to recognize Melanoma just by studying the body.

The ugly duckling concept was introduced in 1998 -the observation that was made showed that moles in the same person tend to resemble one another, and that melanoma often diverges from this pattern.

For example, the outlier lesion can be larger and darker than the surrounding moles (Figure 1A), or on the contrary, small and red in the background of multiple large dark moles (Figure 1B). Finally, if a person has few or no other moles (Figure 1C), any changing lesion should be considered a suspicious outlier.

The Ugly Duckling Sign, skin cancer

Here are three different scenarios that show an outlier lesion (“ugly duckling”) that should cause suspicion. Squares A, B and C each represent a body area such as the back.

  • In A, the person has one dominant mole pattern with a slight difference in size. The outlier lesion is clearly darker and larger than all other moles.
  • In B, the person has two predominant mole patterns, one with larger moles and one with small, darker moles. The outlier lesion is small, but lacks pigmentation.
  • In C, the person has only one lesion on the back. If this lesion is changing, symptomatic, or deemed atypical, it should be removed.

If discovered early, skin cancer is treatable. So protect yourself and your loved ones when you are out in the sun, no matter what time of the year it is, visit your doctor if you feel like you need to, and, as Jennifer says, “Get your moles checked!”.

– Simone
Ugly Ducklings Inc blogger

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3 thoughts on “Skin Cancer Awareness month

  1. Also, melanomas tend to slowly grow, and Jen’s mole, the one on her chest was slowly growing through the years and getting darker, so that is a clear sign!!
    Also, all your moles must be the same colour and If you divide the mole in half, the other half must match it..if the borders are irregular, get them checked out!!!

    Also, check your gums, tongue and inside cheeks for any kind of white lession, if it is there for more than 15 days, get it checked with your dentist! It also could be cancer…

    • Hey Ana,

      Just wanted to get back to you about the last thing you say, about the white lession in the mouth area. You don’t need to rush to a dentist if it is there for more than 15 days immediately. There is a high chance that it is just a mouth ulcer. Very annoying, and it can be very painful, but most of the time not a serious condition. I’ve a chronical disease that makes me have apthous mouth ulcers basically all the time, but it is NOT cancer. I know that you mean well, but I just wanted to say that the chance that it is cancer is so, so very slim. Of course when you feel insecure about it, you can most definitely let it be checked out by a professional, but mostly this isn’t necessary :)

      Thanks for your input! Skin cancer is something we shouldn’t underestimate and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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