Skin Cancer Tip: Observe Moles

skin cancer melanoma
Despite repeated warnings, many people still go out in the sun without any kind of protection. They're putting themselves at risk for skin cancer, and those with moles are among the most susceptible.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than a million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2004.

Over the years, explains The Saturday Early Show's Dr. Mallika Marshall, people have gained more leisure time, and many spend that time in the sun without wearing sunscreen or protective clothing. Less ozone in the atmosphere, which is a recent phenomena, may also play a role in the increase of skin cancer cases. It's expected to play a much larger role in the future, if there continues to be less ozone in the atmosphere.

Marshall has tips on spotting problem moles and explains the most common types of skin cancer. She says spotting problem moles can be easy by observing the ABCDs:

  • Asymmetrical: A mole where the two halves are not identical is suspicious.
  • Borders: A problem mole will have borders that are irregular or uneven.
  • Color: Moles that vary in color from one area to another could spell trouble.
  • Diameter: A mole that has a diameter greater than 6 millimeters or larger than a pencil eraser should be checked out by a physician.

Marshall says not all skin cancers are the same. The following are the most prevalent types.

  • Melanoma: Malignant melanoma is the main reason why people should have an annual skin assessment. This cancer can metastasize and become fatal. This is the most serious but least common skin cancer. The ABCD rule can help you tell a normal mole from one that could be a melanoma. In addition, rapid growth, bleeding and non-healing sores could be symptoms.
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: By far the most common skin cancer, it usually appears as a smooth, waxy or pearly bump, sometimes with some blood vessels on the surface, that grows slowly and rarely spreads.
  • Squamous Cell Cancer: Causes a firm, nodular or flat growth with a crusted, ulcerated or scaly surface on the face, ears, neck, hands or arms.

Chemical peels and microdermabrasion are skin treatments that exfoliate the skin. The treatments remove the top layer of sun-damaged skin, which may include precancerous cells as well as the sun damaged cells that give the skin a rough, blemished discolored appearance. Most people want to get chemical peels or microdermabration for cosmetic reasons, to smooth out their skin and to get better skin tone. Experts found that chemical peels and microdermabrasion may actually decrease the chance of developing certain types of skin cancers.