Skin cancer – What to look out for (ABCDE)
Skin cancer and melanoma: The A to E of skin cancer.
If you have a mole, you need to do a self-check, as moles can represent a skin cancer, especially if you have any of the features listed in the A, B, C, D, E list below. If you have concerns based on the ABCDE, you can always come and see the dermatologist, Jennifer Crawley, and she will help to advise you.
If you have a pigmented skin lesion you need to look out for the A, B, C, D and E:
A. Signifies Asymmetry of the two halves of the lesion.
B. The Border is uneven or scalloped.
C. C Is the Colour variation within the lesion.
D. D is for Diameter, because of the larger the diameter, the higher risk of the pigmented mole that it might be a melanoma.
E. E is that the lesion is Evolving and changing.
Many of us have moles and a small proportion of moles, even if they have been there a long time, which can turn into malignant melanoma. Melanoma is a sun related skin tumour. The risk of melanoma is related to length and intensity sun exposure, and your genetic predisposition and skin type. We often forget that our sun exposure started in childhood when we were not necessarily in the know about the dangers of the sun. Sun exposure in childhood has been shown to be a risk factor for later skin melanoma.
Teenagers often do not realise that when they are doing sports at school, that they are exposed to the sun and need to wear sun protection in the form of clothes, a hat and sun cream. Sunburn is positively associated with the development of malignant melanoma as well as duration and strength of sun exposure. There are of course a set of individuals who are more at risk; these are people who have paler skin, Fitzpatrick skin types 1 to 3, with a poor tanning ability and work outdoors or do a lot of outdoor sport. Recreational sun exposure, although it feels right, is not, in fact, good for your skin and you should always wear a hat, wear UV protective sunglasses, make sure that your face, neck and ears are protected, avoid the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when it is strongest, and do not let your skin get red and burn. You should keep children out of direct sun light, give them vitamin D supplement tablets, choose a high protection sunscreen such SPF30 or 50 and apply it before going out in the sun and then reapply every two hours and always after swimming.
By regularly examining and promptly seeking treatment for any signs of skin cancer, you can reduce your risk of getting a malignant melanoma that could affect your life.
In summary, malignant melanoma risk is associated with recreational sun exposure, and sunburn and occupational hazards such as working in the garden and even total sun exposure also are related to melanoma. You can live in a northern latitude and think that you are not getting much sun exposure, but if you spend a lot of time outdoors, you will still be at risk. Or you can be living in a southern latitude and spent a short period outdoors with recreational sun exposure and sunburn and also be in danger.
Jennifer Crawley is the Consultant Dermatologist at Clinica London with a special interest in dermatology. She is an expert in both adult and paediatric dermatology and has particular interests in research, teaching and leading audit projects.