I figured I was just a person with a lot of moles. Little did I know that it meant that I was at greater risk for melanoma.
Every year the first Monday in May is Melanoma Awareness. That day this year is Monday May 3, 2021. This day focuses on skin health and recognizing the deadliest form of skin cancer. For me, that means wearing sunscreen, sun protective clothing, getting full body skin exams at least once a year and if a new spot pops up, I am going in more frequently. My melanoma was prevented and yours can be too. My dermatologist saw my atypical moles and removed them in my teenage years. These moles were found to be severely atypical placing me at an exponential risk for melanoma.
Over a decade later, I have found myself daily preventing others from the development of melanoma or trying to catch it in early stages. I am now a nurse practitioner specializing in dermatology at Catalyst Medical Center working my dream job in Fargo and Detroit Lakes, Minn. My goal is to help those with skin concerns and prevent skin cancer through education and surveillance.
So, how do we prevent and surveil melanoma?
Start by seeing your dermatology provider for a baseline full body skin exam. They should be checking your skin from head to toe.
Know the ABCDE warning signs of melanoma. If you answer NO to any of these questions, you should see your dermatology provider right away.
- Asymmetry – If you draw a line down the middle and fold it, would it be the same?
- Border Irregularity – Does it have an even border?
- Color Irregularity – Is it the same color throughout?
- Diameter – Is it less than 5 mm or smaller than a pencil eraser?
- Evolution – If it is new or changing, be seen right away.
You can prevent melanoma by staying out of the sun, wearing and reapply sunscreen often, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and other sun protective clothing, and no using tanning beds.
You are at greater risk for Melanoma if you have a first degree relative with atypical moles or diagnosed melanoma, greater than 50 moles, have a history of sunburn or used tanning beds, if you are male, have a weakened immune system, have fair skin, blue eyes, red or blonde hair, and freckling.
Melanoma is a very curable skin cancer if caught and treated early. These are just some of the strategies that can prevent your skin cancer or hopefully find it early. Happy National Melanoma Awareness!
Jenna Mazour is a nurse practitioner specializing in dermatology at Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo.