In many regions of the U.S., the month of May often feels like the true start of spring, featuring warmer temperatures, sunnier days, and the stunning return of various types of flora. This return to outdoor spaces, however, also puts people at greater risk of developing skin cancer. Indeed, excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays is at least partially responsible for 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85% of melanoma diagnoses, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. For this reason, May has been declared Skin Cancer Awareness month -- a 31-day initiative meant to educate the public on skin cancer risk factors, treatments, and preventative measures.
As we kick off our celebration of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, let’s explore the importance of receiving regular mole evaluations.
As its name suggests, a mole evaluation is an inspection of one’s moles (nevi) -- those pigmented, sometimes protruding skin features. While the majority of moles are merely cosmetic and non-threatening, some moles can mutate over time, especially when exposed to UV rays, potentially signs of skin cancer (melanoma in particular). An individual can perform mole evaluations at any time with the aid of a mirror, but it’s important to receive professional mole checkups from a dermatologist to take a closer look. When conducting a mole evaluation, your dermatologist will use the “ABCDE” (“Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolution) rubric to note any changes or red flags presented by your moles.
A mole evaluation is a type of skin cancer screening. Simply put, this relatively brief inspection is designed to identify warning signs that suggest skin cancer. If your dermatologist notices any irregularities with one or more moles, they may then perform further testing (i.e. biopsies) to examine the cells more closely and check for cancer. Catching melanoma and other forms of skin cancer at their early stages gives you a major leg up on treating and potentially curing this disease. By receiving regular mole evaluations, then, you reduce the risk of undergoing serious complications from skin cancer and can more effectively stay cancer-free.
Since it’s Skin Cancer Awareness month, May is a great time to get your moles assessed by your dermatologist, especially if it’s been a long time since your last checkup. That said, there’s never a bad time to receive a mole checkup. Experts suggest that patients keep an eye on their own moles as frequently as possible, conducting a self-evaluation at least once a month. As for the frequency with which you should receive a professional mole evaluation, this will depend on factors such as the size and number of moles on your skin, family health history, whether or not you have atypical mole syndrome (i.e. 50 or more moles), etc. Those considered higher-risk should seek an evaluation from their dermatologist once or twice a year, while lower-risk patients might receive a checkup once a year or every two years. Regardless of risk level, you should set an appointment with your dermatologist whenever you think you notice changes with one or more of your moles and/or have concerns in general.
This Skin Cancer Awareness Month, take the time to check in on your moles and overall skin health by setting up a mole evaluation. The experts at Premier Dermatology Partners can help set you up with an appointment and give you more information and resources regarding moles, melanoma, and all things related to skin cancer. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.