The Borderland’s sunny weather entices many to head outdoors, but that means people shouldn’t forget about the dangers of skin cancer.
“Because we live here in the Southwest, we get a lot of sun exposure and skin cancer is the most common cancer,” says Dr. John Andazola, program director of the Southern New Mexico Family Medicine Residency Program in Las Cruces.
Melanoma is the deadliest of the three skin cancers, the other two being basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. But melanoma can be treated if caught early, and that means checking your moles.
“We use a simple rule – an ABCD rule – and I’m sure most people have heard about it, but it’s good to reinforce it,” says Dr. Andazola.
The “A” stands for asymmetry. “If you draw a line down the middle of the mole and one side is different than the other side, that’s an asymmetric mole and should be looked at,” says the doctor.
The “B” stands for border irregularity. “If you have a mole that has a real jagged border or an irregular border, that needs to be evaluated as well.”
The “C” means color. “If you have a mole that has multiple colors – it can be pink, blue, black, purple – if you have different colors in that mole, that’s more concerning for a type of skin cancer that’s dangerous.”
The “D” means diameter. “If it’s less than 5 millimeters, it’s probably pretty safe. Greater than five millimeters is concerning. If you use a pencil eraser on a common No. 2 pencil, that is 6 millimeters.”
But that’s not all. Often the letter “E” is added to the test, which stands for evolution of the mole. “If you have a mole that you’ve had for years, and now it’s changing, now it’s bigger – it looks different, it’s bothering you – that needs to be evaluated,” says Dr. Andazola.
Also important – the doctor also says not to wait for more than one of these signs to pop up before having your moles examined.
And even if you’re dark-skinned, be sure to have your skin checked by the doctor on a regular basis as well.