The ABC's of Skin Cancer
 Summer is winding down (where did the time go!?), and I’m sure most of us can admit to spending a little too much time in the sun (Guilty. But not without sunscreen). While sunscreen and limiting sun exposure are great ways to help decrease your risk of skin cancers, there is still the possibility of obtaining it. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and unfortunately, it can occur at any age.
 There are three main types of skin cancer. The first is the most common, Basal Cell Carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma typically presents as a something that looks like an open sore. It may be a red, pink or shiny looking lesion (a spot or growth). They are typically caused from sun exposure. Fortunately, basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads or metastasizes. The second type of skin cancer is Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma usually presents as a scaly red patch, wart-like lesion or open sore which may crust or bleed. This type of skin cancer is also most commonly caused by skin exposure and can be extremely dangerous is not detected early. These first two types of skin cancer are usually treated by first removing the lesion. This can usually be done surgically, using laser therapy, or by burning off (cauterizing) or freezing off (cryotherapy) the lesion. Anesthesia is always used during these types of procedures and different doctors have additional ways to treat basal and squamous cell carcinoma.
The final type of skin cancer is the most dangerous, and most likely the only one you have heard of. Melanoma is a skin cancer in which skin cells multiply abnormally quickly to form malignant tumors. A melanoma will typically resemble a mole, but can also have other defining characteristics (see below). Melanoma can be caused by sun exposure and genetics. Treatment for melanoma will involve surgical removal. Depending on the stage and other factors, chemotherapy and/or radiation may also be used. If detected early, it is more likely that treatment will only involve surgical removal.

As with any cancer, the best way to treat it is early detection. You can do this by examining and knowing your body and what is on your skin and what is abnormal, much like you would with a self-breast exam. They best way is to be vigilant and check your body once a month by examining any moles or new lesions on your skin.
  In addition to watching for any abnormal looking lesions on your skin, here are a few specific things to look for when doing a self-examination. The ABC's of skin cancer if you will. 

Asymmetry. A benign mole or lesion is typically symmetrical. This means if you drew a line down the middle, the two sides would match very closely. Normally a cancerous mole is the opposite.
Border. A benign mole or lesion will usually have a smooth, even border, whereas a cancerous lesion typically has uneven edges. Look for jagged and notched .
Color. Benign moles and lesions are regularly brown in color. If the mole or lesion has several different colors at once such a brown, tan, or black, there is a chance it could be cancerous. Melanomas may also appear red, purple, pink, white, or blue.
Diameter. If a mold or lesion has a diameter of more than 6mm (about the side of pencil eraser), there is a greater chance that it could be cancerous. However, not all cancerous lesions are large in size.
Evolving. If you notice any change or evolving of a mole or lesion over time, it is definitely a good idea to get it checked out. Any change in size, shape, color, or elevation could be concerning. Also, watch for any concerning new traits such as bleeding, itching, or crusting.

If you notice ANY changes on your skin or any part of your body, it is always a good idea to have it examined by a health care provider. If you notices any of the ABCDE characteristics or any lesion or mole that looks abnormal, have it examined by a doctor as soon as possible. Additionally, if you notice one of these characteristics it does not immediately mean you have skin cancer. Only your health care provider can diagnose skin cancer.

Amanda grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, IL but is now enjoying living in Louisville, KY. She received her bachelors degree at Northern Illinois University where she acted as a resident advisor and mentor to fellow students. This was where she found her passion for wellness and helping others. She went on to study community health and receive her Masters of Education at the University of Louisville. During her studies, she focused her graduate research on programming for mental health and youth wellness. She also acts as an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. She has always enjoyed using her voice and knowledge to educate and advocate about important health topics. Amanda spends much of her time employed as a nanny for three wonderful children.

When she is not busy promoting health education or chasing around the kids, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing with her Pomeranian, Sulley, or indulging in a great book. Amanda thrives on helping to educate others about important health issues and effective health related behaviors so they can live happier and healthier lives!