COLORADO SPRINGS — Following up on our series of stories as part of our Melanoma Awareness Month stories, that diagnosed melanoma cases in Colorado are expected to rise in 2021 by 6%, it's important to understand how to catch this potentially deadly form of skin cancer early.
Dr. Brett Matheson, MD, FACMS with the Skin Cancer & Dermatology Center of Colorado Springs explains there are challenges in catching melanoma early. “When melanoma is caught early it's very treatable, but when it's not caught early it can be a real problem. One of the difficulties with melanoma and all skin cancer in general is that it's largely asymptomatic. It doesn't usually hurt, it doesn't bleed - it's just there so it's easy to sort of dismiss it as something that's not important. If you see something that is new, that doesn't look like a typical mole on your body, it should be checked by a physician.”
What do typical, abnormal moles look like? The answer to that question can be remembered, by learning or being on the lookout for the A-B-C-D-E- 's of Melanoma. Dr. Matheson says each letter has an important meaning that is a warning sign of a mole that should be checked by a doctor. “A stands for asymmetry. If the lesion isn't perfectly round or oval, it's asymmetrical, that's one warning sign for melanoma. B stands for border. If the border is a little irregular that's something to be concerned about. C stands for color. If the color is darker or multicolored that's a risk factor. D stands for diameter. A mole that is growing in diameter - larger than about a pencil eraser size is a warning sign. E stands for evolving. A mole that is changing, evolving, getting bigger or darker that can be a warning sign for melanoma.”
When it comes to prevention, protecting your skin remains key beginning at a young age. Dr. Matheson says, “Everyone has heard how important sunscreen is - and it absolutely is especially in Colorado. We recommend sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Any sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is sufficient to protect you from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Sunscreen is very important, as is a broad brimmed hat that protects the ears and sunglasses are important as well.”
Dr. Matheson added you should reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
In a future story, exactly what happens when you get checked out for any signs of melanoma? I decided at the age of 52 it was important to get my first melanoma screening, and I’ll bring you in the exam room with me, for most of the exam.
If you have any questions, follow up with your doctor or give the team at the Skin Cancer and Dermatology Center of Colorado Springs, at 800-290-2478 or (719) 574-0310 extension 5. You can also visit their homepage at https://www.skincancerandderm.com/