Even if it is still feeling a little chilly outside, Summer is on the way and quite a few of us are nipping away for holidays and sunny breaks. This means it is time to start talking about the risks of sunbathing and not using sun protection. I'm here to explain all about skin cancer, Melanoma and Moles, and why it is essential that we are fully protected while in the sun.
What is Melanoma?
Most people have heard of skin cancer and Melanoma. Although it can be seen as a scary word, it unfortunately is one that is extremely common.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can often spread to other areas of the body, which can make it an aggressive and fatal type of cancer. Often starting as a new mole or a change in an existing one, it tends to appear in areas that are more likely to be exposed to the sun such as the arms, legs and back.
What Are the Triggers?
It is believed that the biggest cause of Melanomas is exposure to UV (ultraviolet) light. This can be from the sun, as well as artificial sources such as tanning beds. The UV rays can damage the normal skin cells by altering their DNA; causing the cell to mutate. A mutated cell will reproduce more mutated cells, which form the cancer.
Everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer, but extra caution should be taken if you have light skin that tends to burn easily, have many moles or freckles or have family history of Melanomas.
What to Look Out For
Although Melanomas are diagnosed by specialists, there are a few warning signs that can be used to determine when to seek medical advice. The most important thing is to keep an eye on your skin and any moles. These often tend to be the first indicators that something might not be right.
To help you remember the signs, the mnemonic ABCDE is often used by Dermatologists when checking moles:
A = Asymmetry. One of the first signs for Melanoma is to look for asymmetry of the mole. Imagine holding a mirror across the centre of the mole. If the halves of the mole do not match, then it is asymmetrical and you should seek a second opinion from a medical professional.B = Border: Another major sign to look out for is the border of the mole. If the mole has started to look uneven or distorted, or if the border is not generally round or oval in shape, then this can be considered as a warning sign.C = Colour: A change in colour of the mole can also be an indicator of Melanoma, so make sure you keep an eye out for either complete changes in colour or patches of different colours.D = Diameter: The size of the mole can also help determine the need for a second opinion, as Melanomas tend to be larger in size compared to other moles. Any with a diameter of around 6mm should get checked especially if they have recently increased in size.E = Evolving: This relates to any changes to the mole and can range from sudden bleeding and itching, to infections at the site. All of these can be a sign of something more serious and you should seek medical attention straight away.
The risk of skin cancer and Melanoma is an important issue so we will be talking more about suncare and the best products for your everyday protection over the next few weeks. In the meantime, why not use this advice to give yourself a sun MOT and check out your moles?