By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) -We live in a state with one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the country, yet when is the last time your epidermis had a good look-see?

Today is “Melanoma Monday,” the one day of the year when we are supposed to be paying some extra attention to our skin, and looking for the deadliest of skin cancers.

About 90,000 Americans every year are diagnosed with melanoma, which isn’t such a great thing to be told since melanoma is the one skin cancer that can aggressively invade the layers of the skin and then spread through the rest of your body — unfortunately with often deadly results.

Even though there are definite risk factors for melanoma, anyone can get it. Anyone.

Sure, being fair skinned, having a history of sunburns –especially as a child, having a family history of melanoma, or hopping onto a tanning bed can all raise your risk, but most people who get melanoma have no risk factors. And some don’t even get them in sun exposed areas.

But once again, anyone can develop a melanoma … pretty much at any age: teens included.

So today, and every day, here are things to keep in mind.

One of the tools we use is one you can use as well. It’s that alphabet rule that’s been around for a while, and still is a good screening tool for something funky growing on your skin:

It’s called the ABCDE guide to evaluate stuff growing on your body:
A is for Asymmetry. If you cut a mole in half, it should be even on both sides.
B for Border. You don’t want moles that have jagged edges.
C for Color. You want moles that are even in color. You don’t want moles that are black, white, blue, or pink.
D for Diameter. You want moles that are smaller than a pencil eraser in size.
E for Evolving. If you have a mole that’s changing, itching, burning, or bleeding, you should have it evaluated by your doctor.

Other warning signs include:

A sore that doesn’t heal

Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin

Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole

Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain

Change in the surface of a mole – scaling, oozing, bleeding, or a lump or bump that shows up.

So today peel off to your birthday suit and have a look-see, even in those places that never see the light of the sun—a mirror can help.

Then don’t forget the other year-round measures that are skin friendly:

Skin Protection—with sunscreens and clothing

Self-Exams every month

Skin exam by your physician at least once every year.

Please don’t think you’re immune to a bad thing growing on your skin. I’ve had dozens of patients and friends affected by melanoma, with the youngest being 16 years old.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida




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