Safety doesn’t stop with sunscreen. It’s important to see a board-certified dermatologist for a thorough skin exam once a year, more often if you have a history of skin cancer. And once a month, you should do your own examination at home. Check for any abnormalities, and note any textural changes, like scaliness, bumps, or rough, uneven areas. You also want to spot visible changes to your skin, especially around moles. “Sun exposure can cause moles to change in appearance, and that could be a sign of melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer,” Dr. Lipner says.
When examining your skin, remember the letters A, B, C, D, and E. “A stands for asymmetry,” Dr. Lipner says. “If you were to put a line through a mole, both sides should look the same; if they don’t, that’s a warning sign.” B stands for border, and the borders of your moles should be round and smooth; if they’re ragged or irregular, reach out to your doctor for a checkup. The C stands for color. “Moles with multiple colors or shades of brown or black may be a warning sign of melanoma.” D is for diameter; a mole that’s bigger than a pencil eraser could be cause for concern, Dr. Lipner says. “The letter E is most important; it stands for evolving: If you have a mole that is changing, or getting bigger, show it to a board-certified dermatologist.”
This mnemonic device applies to melanomas, Dr. Lipner says, but other types of skin cancer can have a different appearance. “The most common type is basal cell carcinoma, or basal cell cancer, and those tend not to be colored. Generally, basal cells can be a red scaly patch, or a little pink bump.” Less common than a basal cell cancer, but more common than melanoma, is a squamous cell carcinoma, and it can appear as a thickened area of skin.
When it comes to your skin, it’s key to spot any warning signs as soon as possible. “Vigilance and self-skin-checks are important.”