Know your ABCDEs

Summer is fast approaching, before you go shopping for this season's perfect bathing suit and snorkel gear; make sure you know your ABCDEs for detecting skin cancer.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) touts the following ABCDE's for self-screening for melanoma, a skin cancer. Melanoma can be quickly identified and treated but when ignored is deadly.

Asymmetry (one half unlike the other half)

Border (irregular, scalloped or poorly defined)

Color (varies from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue)

Diameter (the size of a pencil eraser or larger)

Evolving (changing in size, shape or color)

To give yourself an exam it is best to have a mirror and a flashlight. If you see any of the above irregularities in moles or spots on your skin, consult a dermatologist.

"Studies show that involving a partner in the self-examination process and having regular screenings by a health-care provider can improve the early detection of skin cancer," explained Zoe D. Draelos, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist and consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina, in an AAD announcement on May 17. "These types of regular screenings could lead to fewer deaths if skin cancer is caught early in its most treatable stages."

Here is a how-to and information site to help you with your own exam created by the Melanoma Education Foundation: http://www.skincheck.org/Page5.htm

Take a look at MelanomaMondays.org, a site of the AAD, to take their online survey "Suntelligence: How Sun Smart is Your City?" and download a body map to pinpoint your moles.

If you are uncomfortable doing the self-exam, have a health professional do it. Also a number of clinics conduct free screenings especially during the summer months to promote skin cancer detection and prevention awareness.

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