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The Alphabet of Melanoma, A Skin Cancer Tutorial

We were taught the alphabet when we were in pre-school but do you know there’s this very important alphabet that many of us need to be aware of? Since May is skin cancer awareness month I decided to talk about the alphabet of skin cancer and how crucial it is in the early detection of skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed today with 3.5 million cases in more than two million people diagnosed yearly. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, they are the so called non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). The other type is melanoma which accounts for less than 2% of all skin cancer cases, but the largest majority of skin cancer deaths. It is therefore vital for everyone to know the ABCDE of melanoma because if this cancer is detected and treated early the cure rate is 100%. So let’s check the alphabet of melanoma:

A for Asymmetry If you draw a line through the mole, the two halves will not match. If one half is different from the other then it is asymmetrical which means it can be melanoma. B for Border A poorly defined, uneven or scalloped border maybe a sign of melanoma. C for Color Most non-cancerous moles have one color. If you notice a variety of colors or different shades of brown, tan, black it might be melanoma. It can sometimes be red, white or blue. D for Diameter Non-cancerous moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas have larger diameter than the pencil erasers which is about 6 mm.Some melanomas may be smaller when detected. E for Evolve If the mole is different from all your other moles in the body, if there is any change in color, shape, and trait or if it evolves in some way then it can be malignant. Also watch out for itching, crusting or bleeding. Now, that you know the ABCDE of skin cancer let me share with you the prevention guidelines recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation. Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun is strongest. An extra rule of thumb is the "shadow rule." If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation is stronger; if your shadow is longer, UV radiation is less intense.Do not burn. A person's risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, doubles if he or she had had five or more sunburns at any point in life. Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths. UV radiation from tanning machines is known to cause cancer in humans. Indoor UV tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, than those who have never tanned indoors.Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Clothing can be your most effective form of sun protection, the more skin you cover, the better, so choose long sleeves and long pants whenever possible.Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.Keep newborns out of the sun since their skin is extremely vulnerable. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months. Children are very sensitive to ultraviolet radiation- just one severe sunburn in childhood doubles the chances of developing melanoma later in life. Examine your skin head-to-toe every month. While self-exams shouldn't replace the important annual skin exam performed by a physician, they offer the best chance of detecting the early warning signs of skin cancer (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2016). Once melanoma spreads it could lead to death so it’s best to detect it early, know the warning signs and remember the alphabet of melanoma. References The Skin Cancer Prevention (2016). Prevention. Retrieved from


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