Sun lovers beware

Skin cancer is becoming an increasingly important health concern. Most skin cancers occur in the head and neck areas. There are usually warning signs that can be recognized as sun damage.

The most serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is usually first detected as a change in existing moles on the skin. Usually, moles are flat round or oval spots on the skin. However, they may change over time. An easy way to remember the basics of malignant melanoma is to recite the beginning of the alphabet:

  • A stands for Asymmetry. This means that one half of the mole is unlike the other half.
  • B stands for Border. Moles with irregular or wavy borders or borders that aren't very clear cut may be warning signs.
  • C stands for Colour. This describes moles that are multi-coloured (shades of brown, black and sometimes even white or red).
  • D stands for Diameter. A mole that is larger than 6 millimetres across its widest part (approximately the width of a pencil eraser) may be a problem.
  • E stands for Evidence of Change. Any changes in the look of a mole should be reported.

Other types of skin cancer to be on the lookout for are basal cell and squamous cell cancers. Basal cell skin cancer usually appears as a red, black or skin-coloured bump on the skin. The bump often has a pearly border and can develop into a sore. Squamous cell skin cancers usually appear as bumps that are red and sometimes scaly with a crusted sore.

It's important to check skin regularly, at least every month. If changes to moles or any new skin growths are noticed, they should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible. The key to treatment of skin cancer is timing - the earlier, the better.

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