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  • Writer's pictureEmily Roling

ABCDE for Skin Care

Summer has again come and gone. Students are back in school and

new routines have been established. It is safe to say that fall is upon us.

As the calendar turns to October, we enter Cancer Awareness Month.

Many cancers can be detected early through routine screening. Most of

us are aware of screening tools for breast, cervical and colon cancer.

When was the last time you considered screening for skin cancer? Your

primary care health provider can be your first line of defense in

recognizing skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United

States. There are three types of skin cancer, basal cell, squamous cell

and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell occur more frequently

and rarely spread. Melanoma is less common, however is more likely to

spread. All three types can be detected in a skin cancer screening. A

skin cancer screening (also called a skin check) is a visual exam of the

skin. This can be performed by you, your primary care provider or a

dermatologist. A full body scan will occur, taking note of any moles,

birthmarks or other lesions. A skin cancer screening cannot diagnose

skin cancer. Instead, it is used to identify suspicious lesions that will be

sampled with a biopsy. The biopsy will send part of the lesion to be

looked at under a microscope. This will determine if the lesion is

cancerous and, if positive, the type of cancer.

When performing a skin check, special attention should be given to any

moles or lesions that have changed over time. These changes may

include increasing size, oozing, bleeding or becoming crusty. Any lesion

that is painful to touch or a sore that does not heal within two weeks

should be brought to the attention of your primary care provider or

dermatologist. Also any lesion that has irregular borders or is shiny, red

pearly white or translucent bump should also be considered for biopsy.

An easy way to remember the signs of skin cancer is the “ABCDE”

(asymmetry, border, color, diameter and evolving) method. Each lesion

should be evaluated for asymmetry. If there is an odd shape that is not

the same on both sides, notify your provider. Borders of normal moles

and lesions should be smooth and well defined. Have the mole

evaluated if the border of the mole is ragged or irregular. Inspect the

mole for color. Each lesion should be the same color throughout, and

color variation is considered abnormal. Check the size of the lesion. If

the diameter is larger than a pea or pencil eraser, it should be

monitored. Watch evolving moles, this means any mole that changes in

size, shape or color should be considered for biopsy. If you notice any

of these warning signs, speak with your healthcare provider as soon as


Skin cancer, like many other cancers, is best treated with early

detection. Undergoing regular skin checks, either at home or in a

provider’s office, will help identify suspicious lesions and promote early

treatment. If you have questions about how to conduct a skin cancer

screening, or about ways to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer,

I would encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider.

~Emily Roling, MSN, ARNP, FNP-BC

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Our providers enjoy sharing articles on a wide variety of health and wellness topics.  The information in these articles is intended for general information only, and should not be used to diagnose, treat or cure any condition.  Seek the advice of your medical provider or other qualified healthcare professional for personalized care regarding your unique needs and goals.

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