Summer Sun and Your Skin

Whilst our Canmore summers are frustratingly short, and we all want to maximize our vitamin D production by getting as much skin sun exposure as possible, it is prudent to be aware of the risks of sun exposure, particularly in our loftier altitudes.

Dermatologists commonly recommend the ABCD system to alert you to potentially worrisome moles which should be immediately assessed by your physician. The ABCD system describes features of the malignant melanoma - the most deadly or the skin malignancies. It is recommended that you perform a regular skin examination, paying attention to any new or longstanding moles. You may need help to examine your back, and a mirror can be handy to examine those hard to see areas.

A = Asymmetry

Common moles are round and symmetrical. Most early melanomas are asymmetrical. If a line divided through the middle of your mole doesn't create equal halves then ask your doctor to have a look.

B = Border Irregularity

Common moles have fairly smooth and even borders. Most early melanomas have borders that are often uneven and may have rough edges.

C = Colour Change

Common moles are round and symmetrical. Most early melanomas are asymmetrical. If a line divided through the middle of your mole doesn't create equal halves then ask your doctor to have a look.

D = Diameter >5mm

Early melanomas tend to grow larger than common moles - generally to at least the size of a pencil eraser (about 6mm, or 1/4 inch, in diameter). Melanomas can be diagnosed at sizes much smaller than this - the smaller the melanoma when diagnosed, the better. Lesions under 7mm have a low risk or recurrence if removed.
Other features which should prompt a visit to your physician include moles which suddenly appear, moles which become itchy or scab and moles which start bleeding. Whilst these features do not necessarily indicate you have a serious problem, it is always prudent to have a professional assessment.
Remember - prevention is the best cure. Keep covered up, use a high SPF sun screen (30+), and start examining those moles on a frequent and regular schedule.

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