Why a Full Body Mole Screening is the Most Important Thing You Will Do All Summer
If you’ve already started preparing for your summer plans, whether they include an exotic trip to a sunny location or simply reaping all the relaxing benefits of a “staycation” near the pool, you’re probably already equipped with plenty of sunscreen. But even if you’re diligent about keeping your skin protected from sun damage, you may still be missing an essential step in melanoma prevention. Doing everything you can to limit your risk factors for skin cancer is, of course important, but your efforts could be all for naught if you’re not performing a full body mole screen regularly.
What Exactly Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, although it is also typically very treatable if caught in its early stages. When your skin is exposed to UV rays, whether from the sun or indoor tanning beds, that radiation can damage the DNA in your skin cells, which can cause a tumor to form. These tumors can originate from moles, although they can also form on their own. But when the latter is the case, the tumor often resembles a mole. This is why full body mole screening can be such an impactful preventative measure. If the melanoma is noticed and treated early enough, the prognosis is generally very good. (Skin Cancer Foundation)
How to Perform a Full Body Mole Screen
To complete your full body mole screen, you’re going to do just that–screen your entire body for moles. While this may sound like a bit of a daunting task for those with a large number of moles, the benefits really are worth it. For those of you with very few moles who may be thinking, “Okay, this isn’t for me,” think again. In fact, a low mole count may actually be a higher risk factor for skin cancer than previously thought, mainly because people with few moles don’t tend to be screened for melanoma. (Dermatology Times)
So no matter how many moles you have, you should be checking your body for them on a regular basis. To do this, start with the front of your torso facing a mirror. Then carefully examine your arms and hands, then your legs and feet. To scan your back, you can use two mirrors to make sure you don’t miss any spots. Finally, check your face, neck, and scalp, again, using a mirror when necessary. (The American Academy of Dermatology)
What to Look for: The ABCDEs of Melanoma
So what exactly are you looking for when you do a full body mole screen? The American Academy of Dermatology suggests you look for the “ABCDEs” of melanoma. Pretty simple, right? Here’s what that means:
- Look for any asymmetry in your moles, which could be a sign of skin cancer. Ideally, a mole should be relatively symmetrical.
- Irregular borders could also be an indication of skin cancer. An irregular border could mean undefined edges or nonuniform lines surrounding your mole.
- The color of your moles is also important. Moles should generally be uniform in color, and that color shouldn’t drastically change. So if you notice that one mole in particular has significantly darkened, for example, you should consider having your dermatologist take a look at it.
- The diameter of your moles should be relatively small. Melanomas are typically larger than 6mm, so if you notice that any of your moles are becoming larger or are already around this size, it could be a good idea to get them checked out.
- Finally, the “E” is for “evolving.” Any significant change, whether in symmetry, size, color, or any other characteristic could be a sign of skin cancer. (The American Academy of Dermatology)
Keeping a Mole Map
The whole point of scanning your body for moles is so that you can notice any changes (Es) in any of the ABCDs above. So once you’ve scanned each area of your body, be sure to record any moles you see, as well as any defining characteristics that you want to keep an eye on. Keep in mind that just because you have a large mole, for example, doesn’t mean that you automatically have skin cancer. But it does mean that you should pay special attention to any changes in that mole.
Talk with Your Dermatologist
Another very useful reason for keeping a mole map of your full body screen is so that you can more clearly and effectively communicate with your dermatologist. Any time you notice a major change in any of the ABCDs, you should mark it on your mole map so you can easily find that mole again and show it to your dermatologist.
At Premier Plastic Surgery & Dermatolgoy in Pittsburgh, our board-certified dermatologists Dr. Ana Busquets along with Dr Susannah McClain and dermatology physician assistant, Christopher Foti, C-PA, would be happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have about your moles. Our providers are board certified in their specialty, with areas of interest and expertise in skin cancer screening and treatment, mole evaluation, and removal of benign skin lesions. To schedule a consultation with our providers, you can contact Premier Plastic Surgery & Dermatology at (724) 933-1800.
The Bottom Line
With summer just around the corner, there’s no better time than the present to perform your first at-home full body mole screen. Even if this is something you’ve done in the past but have perhaps forgotten about as time went on, now is a great time to update your mole map with a new mole screening. If not prevented, melanoma can generally be successfully treated if caught early, so it’s important to remember to scan your skin and record any major changes in your moles. By taking a little time to create your mole map before summer gets here, you can sit back and enjoy everything you love about the nice weather, knowing you’ve been proactive about protection.