The ABC’s of skin cancer prevention

By now most of you have watched the viral melanoma prevention campaign video, “Dear 16 year old me” put out by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund.

If not, you can watch it here:

This video is very powerful and really makes you think about what you can do NOW to prevent a serious disease in the FUTURE.

As a naturopathic doctor, I always advocate for prevention of disease and education on prevention is an important part of my practice philosophy.  Therefore, I feel this is an important issue to discuss.

Prevention of melanoma and other skin cancers can be done by checking your skin for moles and freckles on a regular basis, preferably once a month.

Skin checks are especially important if you are fair skinned, work outdoors, or have a family history of cancer.

The following is a summary of the ABC’s of skin cancer prevention:

A is for Asymmetry

What shape is your mole? Is it a circle, an oval, or just a blob? If you draw a line down the middle do both sides match or is one larger than the other?

If both sides are not the same shape and size, it should be looked at by a doctor.

B is for Borders

Look at the edges of the mole. Is it red, jagged, or poorly defined?

If you answered yes to any of the above, it should be looked at by a doctor.

C is for Colour

Moles are typically an even brown colour throughout.

Is your mole darker in some parts and lighter in others? Is it black, red, white or blue? Does it bleed?

If you answered yes to any of the above, it should be looked at by a doctor.

D is for Diameter

Take a ruler and measure the diameter from one side of the mole to the other.

Melanoma is usually greater than 6 millimetres (the approximate size of a pencil eraser).

If your mole is larger than 6 mm or smaller but has other changes, it should be looked at by a doctor.

E is for Elevation or Evolution

If your mole is flat and unchanging it is less likely to be cancerous.

If it is elevated or is changing in any way mentioned above, it should be looked at by a doctor.

The story of my mole

When I was little, I had a brown mole on my nose. As I grew older, it grew in size as well as elevation.  The borders were always well-defined and it was a perfectly symmetrical circle.  I didn’t pay much attention to it because it was just a part of me.

Except in grade school when my nickname became ‘Holy Moley’. But looking back now even I think this is funny LOL!

Then one day in university I noticed that the mole started to change colour.  It was becoming darker and almost black on one side.

This alerted me to the fact that perhaps I should seek the advice of a medical doctor.  I was referred to a dermatologist who asked me about my history of sun exposure and family history of cancer.  He also evaluated all of my other moles.

He suggested I remove the mole. The procedure took less than fifteen minutes and because he was a cosmetic dermatologist (the ones that specialize in botox and collagen injections) he took extra care so that I would not have a large scar left on my face.  Those who have met me post-mole removal cannot believe I ever had one!

After the mole was removed, the tissue was evaluated and they told me that it was not dangerous and I did not have skin cancer. What a relief!

Checking your moles is very quick and easy.  The 10 minutes you spend checking your moles each month can save you many years of your life so why wouldn’t you check them?

Great tools on how to check your skin can be found on the DCMF website

I’d love to hear your experience with your mole and skin cancer prevention. Please share your stories in the comments section!