“Even if you carefully practice sun safety in the summer, it’s important to continue being vigilant about your skin in the spring, fall, and winter,” advises the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF). “Throughout the year, you should examine your skin head to toe once a month, looking for any suspicious lesions. Self-exams can help you identify potential skin cancers early, when they can almost always be completely cured.
“Take note of any new moles or growths, and any existing growths that begin to grow or change significantly in any way. Lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don’t heal are alarm signals,” states the SCF.
More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. An estimated 178,560 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, according to the SCF.
“Its so vital to catch melanoma early, the deadliest from of skin cancer, that physicians have developed two specific strategies for early recognition of the disease: ABCDEs and the ‘ugly duckling’ sign.”
The SCF explains, “Melanoma often manifests some or all of the A-E features: Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color variability, Diameter greater than six millimeters, and Evolution or change.” The SCF acknowledges that melanoma may not always follow these rules, but they’re guidelines for self-checks.
The “ugly duckling sign” refers to comparing a lesion in question to surrounding lesions, “looking for an outlier in the background of similar moles. For example, the outlier lesion can be larger and darker than the surrounding moles, or conversely, be small and red in the background of multiple large dark moles,” the SCF says.
“If you spot an ‘ugly duckling’ lesion or a lesion manifesting the ABCDEs, see a dermatologist without delay,” urges the SCF.