An estimated one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer over the course of their lives, and one person dies from melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – every hour.
Here’s the good news: Skin cancer is highly treatable when detected early, according to Brett Coldiron, M.D., FAAD, president of the Schaumburg, Ill.-based American Academy of Dermatology.
“Despite this, many people don’t know how to be their own detective when it comes to skin cancer, including what to look for on their skin or when they should see a dermatologist,” Coldiron says.
In recognition of Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month in May, and Melanoma Monday (observed on May 5), the American Academy of Dermatology urges everyone to learn the “ABCDE Rule,” which outlines the warning signs of melanoma:
- A (asymmetry) – One half of the mole does not match the other half.
- B (border irregularity) – The edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
- C (color) – Color varies from one area to another.
- D (diameter) – While melanomas usually are greater than 6 millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
- E (evolving) – A mole or skin lesion looks different from the others or is changing in size, shape or color.
“Although skin cancer is more common among people with light or fair skin, everyone is at risk of getting this life-threatening disease,” Coldiron says. “If you see anything on your skin that is changing, itching or bleeding, you should make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”
“SPOT Skin Cancer” is the academy’s campaign to raise awareness of skin cancer by promoting the prevention, detection and care of skin cancer. The academy designates the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday to raise awareness of melanoma and encourage early detection through self-exams.
The academy’s Spot Skin Cancer website provides more information on skin-cancer prevention and detection, including tips on performing a skin-cancer self-exam; nationwide locations of free skin-cancer screenings; and advice on how to select the appropriate sunscreen.
Individuals who have been affected by skin cancer can share their personal stories on the website and provide support and inspiration for others fighting skin cancer, as well as communicate the importance of prevention and early detection.