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Skin Cancer Warning Signs, Risk Factors and Prevention Tips

May 17, 2021

According to the American Cancer Society, every year more than five-million people are diagnosed with skin cancer, the most common form of cancer. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Kathleen Suozzi, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital, said it’s a good time to highlight warning signs, prevention and screening for this potentially deadly disease:

1- What are the warning signs for skin cancer?
“Skin cancer can present with a variety of symptoms, but when we are screening for melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, we think about the ABCDE rule,” said Suozzi. The ABCDE rule applies to assessment of nevi, or moles, and stands for:

A = Asymmetry
One part of a mole doesn’t match the other.
B = Border
The edges of a mole are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
C = Color
A mole is a mix of colors and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, or white.
D = Diameter
The mole is larger than ¼ inch across – about the size of a pencil eraser.
E = Evolving
The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

2- Who is at risk for skin cancer?
“People who are at an increased risk for skin cancer are individuals who have a high degree of ultraviolet (UV) or sun exposure, people who are fair skinned and who have light eyes, although we diagnose skin cancer in all skin types,” said Suozzi.

3- What can you do to prevent skin cancer?
“The best defense while out in the sun is to use a sunscreen with a SPF or Skin Protection Factor of 30 or above,” said Suozzi. “Also, wear clothing that covers your arms and legs when possible and wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.”

4- What about skin cancer protection for babies and children?
"If you’re outside, we recommend shielding your baby from the sun in a shady spot, especially if he or she is younger than six months old and dressing your baby in sun-protective clothing," said Suozzi. “For children older than six months, you should apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30. Mineral-based sunscreens are best for babies and children as they have less risk of skin irritation. Remember to reapply your child’s sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.”

5- Should you be screened for skin cancer?
“Screening starts at home. I recommend everyone check their skin from head-to-toe about once a month,” said Suozzi. “I also recommend that anyone with a significant history of UV-exposure or with a personal or family history of skin cancer should have at least an annual skin check with a board-certified dermatologist.”

To learn more about skin cancer, go to:

Submitted by Anne Doerr on May 17, 2021