Are You at Risk For Skin Cancer?

I had a suspicious mole removed today. Thanks, Connie, for reminding me to have this checked. I knew I had some of the risk factors on the mole on my face. My dermatologist was concerned about its appearance too. It had three of the risk factors (see below) and I’m pretty sure it popped up in the last few years. My light hair, skin and eyes place me at a greater risk and Colorado has higher incidents of skin cancer.

The ABCDs of melanoma skin cancer are:

  • Asymmetry. One half doesn’t match the appearance of the other half.
  • Border irregularity. The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • Color. The color (pigmentation) is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present. Dashes of red, white, and blue add to a mottled appearance.
  • Diameter. The size of the mole is greater than 1/4 inch (6 mm), about the size of a pencil eraser. Any growth of a mole should be evaluated.

Are You at Risk For Skin Cancer?

  • Family history of melanoma.
  • Sun exposure – The amount of time spent unprotected in the sun
  • Early childhood sunburns – Research has shown that sunburns early in life increase a person’s risk for skin cancer later in life. Sun exposure early in life is the major contributing factor to developing skin cancer.
  • Many freckles.
  • Many ordinary moles (more than 50).
  • Dysplastic nevi (precancerous or atypical moles)

Visit the Skin Cancer Foundation by clicking here.
Moles that are present at birth and atypical moles, have a greater chance of becoming malignant.

The following six steps are recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation to help reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

  1. Minimize exposure to the sun at midday – between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  2. Apply sunscreen, with at least a SPF-15 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, to all areas of your body that are exposed to the sun.
  3. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days. Reapply after swimming or perspiring.
  4. Make sure you wear clothing that covers the body and shades the face. Hats should provide shade for both the face and back of the neck. Wearing sunglasses will reduce the amount of rays reaching the eye by filtering as much as 80 percent of the rays, and protecting the lids of the eyes, as well as the lens.
  5. Avoid exposure to UV radiation from sunlamps or tanning parlors.
  6. Protect yourself from excessive sun exposure when the sun is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.), and apply sunscreen liberally and frequently.

Remember, sand and pavement reflect UV rays even under the umbrella. Snow is a particularly good reflector of UV rays. Reflective surfaces can reflect up to 85 percent of the damaging sun rays.

I’ll know the results of the biopsy in a few weeks. Until then, check your own skin for any suspicious moles. Getting two moles removed today wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

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5 thoughts on “Are You at Risk For Skin Cancer?

  1. I try to get my skin checked every few years, but it’s been awhile. I guess that’s something I need to add to my list.No wonder that mole was suspicious — you WERE out to get it.

  2. Jan, thanks for doing such a great job of laying out all the risk factors. You should be a medical writer! And you wear your “badge” of courage so well. I’m surprised how many boomers are still unaware of the risk factors associated with skin cancer and the need to see a dermatologist at least once a year (and for me every 3 months again!). I feel awful that you have to wait for 3 weeks to find out your results (incredible!). I’m sure it must be sent out to a special lab. You’re in my thoughts and prayers. Did you have a punch biopsy?! I’ve had so many biopsies that I’ve lost count. Someday on the blog I’ll have to talk about my colon?!?! We need to talk about our colonoscopies which I have the privilege of having every 3 years (it used to be every 6 months!). Oh boy…more boomer fun! HUGS!

  3. Connie – I was just talking to my sister this. We’ve had moles removed on a regular basis since Dad had an episode of skin cancer.This is my third round and it’s always been Ok. However, I’m over 40 now so the risks are higher. I had a straight across slice. Now I’m thinking they’ll come back and say, it’s precancerous or suspicious and just about the time it’s healed I’ll have to do it all over again. But, it beats unnecessary risks.I knew that one should probably come off but was a little leary since it’s on my face. Since I turned 40 I’ve worn sunscreen every day – even in the winter.You are right, colonoscopies are important too. My MIL has never had one and she is 78.

The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. - Psalm 34:19

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