Keep a watchful eye on your skin
“This is what it looks like. This is what you’re looking for,” my mom said as she pointed at a blackish-red spot on her arm. “Your aunts, your cousin and I have all had skin cancer. You have my skin. Keep an eye out.”
I had many of these conversations with my mom when I was a kid. My parents, like everyone of their generation, grew up without sunscreen. My dad got a tan; my mom got cancerous spots. Every time she went to the doctor to get one removed, she would point it out to me, explain what to look out for, and remind me of the importance of sunscreen. Every time we spent time outside, we would religiously apply my SPF 30. I still do so.
My mom was not alone. One-in-5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age 70, with 1 percent of those being melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanomas, as well as other skin cancers, are up to 20 times more likely to occur in fair-skinned people than in those with dark skin. It is deadlier and more common in men than in women, and the average age of diagnosis is 65.
Luckily, skin cancer is generally visible, and can be caught quickly if you know what you’re looking for. You just need to remember your ABCDEs.
A: Asymmetry. A normal mole will appear symmetrical. If the mole or spot becomes an irregular shape, it’s time to go see a doctor.
B: Border. An irregular, scalloped or ill-defined border on a mole can be a symptom that the mole is cancerous.
C: Color. A regular mole is all one color, while a melanoma is much more likely to be varied in color.
D: Diameter. Always get a spot checked out if its diameter is more than 6 mm, or a quarter inch.
E: Evolving. If a spot changes, it’s time to go to the doctor.
Following these guidelines, you’re much more likely to catch melanomas in time. That being said, it is still a good idea to get your skin checked once a year for melanomas and other skin cancers. Wear sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher when you’ll be in the sun for more than 15 minutes, and be especially careful with children, as severe sunburns in childhood and adolescence are more likely to contribute to a later cancer diagnosis.
In other words, avoid sunburns, keep an eye on your skin, and you can start to incorporate sunscreen into your daily skin care routine during this Skin Cancer Awareness Month. You deserve to feel good in your skin every day. Get in touch with me if I can help you with that!
Rikki Techner is a skin care specialist who formulates her own line of artisan, small-batch serums, cleansers and moisturizers with her Mind Body Skin Care. She is a licensed esthetician and does facials and make up at the St. Louis Wellness Center. Contact Rikki at 314-422-0308 or Rikki@MBSCSkincare.com. Rikki sells her skin care line at several farmers markets in the area. Check her Instagram page for the schedule.