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News on Skin Cancer

April 8, 2017
Plain English Version

Young woman.

The lighter your skin, the more freckles, and moles you have, the greater your chance of having skin cancer.

A new study said we need uniform guidelines to help people answer these questions.

Doctors said people should have a head-to-toe examination. A total body scan is right for people between the ages of 35 and 75.

The doctor looks at the size, shape, color and borders of moles. They will test any suspicious-looking mole for skin cancer. The exam includes hard-to-spot places. These include the scalp, under fingernails and behind the ears. Doctors even look into the iris of the eyes.

Doctors cite the following risk factors for skin cancer:

  • Previous cases of melanoma
  • A compromised immune system
  • A family history of melanoma
  • Indoor tanning and blistering sunburns
  • Physical features such as light skin, blond or red hair, lots of freckles
  • badly sun-damaged skin
  • 40 or more moles or two or more atypical moles.

A total skin exam does not call for equipment or tests. It is easy to do. It is a great way to detect and treat cancer.

The average five-year survival rate is as high as 98% for melanoma caught at an early stage. This drops to about 18% once it is stage four or has spread to other organs.

Many people are without signs of symptoms of melanoma and a family history. They should do a regular self-exam. Follow the ABCDE’s. That is asymmetry, irregular borders, uneven color, a diameter more than a half-inch, and moles that evolve or change.

A doctor said, “Learn your skin and learn your moles. It takes a while to learn what to look for.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal April 3, 2017

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