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Checking for Skin Cancer After a Summer of Sunshine

Daniel Hagon

October 15, 2020

The summer is over, and fall is well and truly upon us. As the sun loses its luster and the trees shed their leaves in preparation for winter, so we too have time to reflect on the summer we have had, and one way to do that is to take stock of our physical health.

With excellent weather comes certain risks, of which skin cancer is perhaps the greatest. Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer and it is wise to check your body over regularly in order to observe any changes to your skin, particularly after a summer spent soaking up the sun.

How to Check Your Skin

The best way to check your skin is to use a full-length mirror in a well-lit room. If you can’t see certain parts of your body, use a hand-held mirror to find the best angle.

Most doctors will routinely check you over if you have a physical visit planned so if you have any concerns or would just like to be checked over for peace of mind, arrange a visit with your personal doctor.

Know Your ABCs

The best way to check if you have melanoma, which is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, is to follow the ABCDE rule when checking your skin.

  • Asymmetry — one part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other
  • Border — the edges of the mole or birthmark are ragged, notched, blurred or irregular
  • Color — the color is different or patchy and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white or blue
  • Diameter — The spot is larger than a quarter of an inch, which is roughly the size of a pencil eraser (although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this)
  • Evolving — the mole is changing in size, shape or color

Other Types of Skin Cancer

Although less deadly and usually very treatable, basal and squamous cell carcinomas are more common, so it is important to be aware of what to look out for with these two types of cancer.

Basal cell:

  • Flat, firm pale or yellow areas and similar to a scar
  • Raised reddish patches that may be itchy
  • Small translucent, shiny or pearly bumps that are pink or red and which might have blue, brown or black areas
  • Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in the center, which might have abnormal blood vessels spreading out like the spokes of a wheel
  • Open sores, perhaps with oozing or crusted areas, which don’t heal or heal then come back

Squamous cell:

  • Rough or scaly red patches which might crust or bleed
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
  • Open sores, perhaps with oozing or crusted areas, which don’t heal or heal then come back
  • Wart-like growths

It Doesn’t Hurt to Be Sure

Not all cancers fit neatly into these categories. If you have any concerns at all, talk to a doctor so that they can put your mind at ease or arrange for swift action. Nothing is off limits: make sure you tell them if you have:

  • Any new spots
  • Any spot that doesn’t look like others on your body
  • Any sore that doesn’t heal
  • Redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole
  • Color that spreads from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
  • Itching, pain or tenderness in an area that doesn’t go away or goes away only to come back
  • Changes in the surface of a mole, including oozing, scaliness, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump

For more information, feel free to visit the official cancer helpline website.