Amy Reisenauer, MD, is a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente’s Kihei Medical Office in Hawaii. As a doctor, she sees first-hand the exploding rates of skin cancer, especially in young people.
According to Dr. Reisenauer, melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer, and it is also the most deadly. Nearly 9,000 men and women die every year from melanoma. At the same time, melanoma is also the most treatable type of skin cancer, especially when detected early on.
While genetics can put a person more at risk for developing melanoma—light hair, light eyes, and fair skin heighten the risk—lifestyle factors play an even bigger role role. Men and women who have been sunburned often, even when they were children, are at a higher risk for developing melanoma.
Dr. Reisenauer explains that the key to early detection is engaging in monthly self-exams. Self exams can be done in a full-length mirror, where men and women should look for the ABCDs of melanoma:
- A is for Asymmetry. One half of the mole looks different from the other half.
- B is for Border Irregularity. The borders of a mole are notched or scalloped and not smooth.
- C is for Color. If there’s more than one color mixed in the mole.
- D is for Diameter. Anything bigger than six mm, which is the size of a pencil eraser, should be looked at.