When it comes to skin cancer, the more eyes you have on it, the better. Potential skin cancer can be spotted more easily when people, especially spouses, are trained to look for suspicious developments.
That wisdom is especially true for men over 50, who have a higher risk than the general population of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
One in five Americans will get skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Melanoma is the least-common form and if treated early it is almost always curable. If not detected early enough, the cancer can spread, making it difficult to treat and potentially fatal.
That’s why it’s important for everyone to keep a sharp eye out for signs of the disease. Research has shown that women are nine times more likely than men to notice melanoma on others, and that men assisted by women during skin exams are less likely to miss skin lesions than women assisted by men. Related content Fall Boomers magazine: East Coast jewel July 10, 2017
“I like to tell my patients, “if you see something, say something,” said Dr. Thomas E. Rohrer, president, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
Where to look
Since it can be difficult to examine some parts of your body on your own, it’s best to ask a partner for help.
“We encourage partners to check each other and check your kids, especially in hard-to-see areas such as the scalp, back, back of legs and soles of feet,” said New York-based dermatologist Dr. Anthony M. Rossi.
However, not all melanomas develop from moles. Genetics and family history also play major roles.
“About one in every 10 patients diagnosed with the disease has a family member with a history of melanoma. Having a first-degree relative diagnosed with melanoma confers about a 50 percent greater chance of developing the disease than people who do not have a family history of the disease,” Rossi said.
Additionally, “the risk of developing melanoma increases with sun exposure and, in particular, sunburns. The risk of melanoma doubles if someone has had more than five sunburns. Those who have used tanning beds more than 10 times have a 34 percent increased risk of developing melanoma,” Rohrer said.
Melanoma can also develop from existing moles or an area of skin that is newly pigmented, Rossi said.
What to check
“The signs of melanoma include any new or changing mole. The ABCDEs of melanoma are often used as signs of worrisome features that could be melanoma,” Rohrer said.
A: Asymmetry – when a mole is symmetrical, a line can be drawn down the center and both halves will look the same. Asymmetry means lack of balance in this regard.
B: Border – if mole borders are jagged and irregular (not smooth).
C: Color – irregular and uneven. It may have different shades of brown or black.
D: Diameter – greater than 6 mm, which is a bit smaller than a fingertip.
E: Every mole that is changing or evolving or looks different than all of a person’s other moles.
Selfies can be a great way to check abnormal skin developments you might otherwise not notice, Rossi said.
“We also encourage patients to get naked and check themselves at least yearly on their birthdays. Get in your birthday suit on your birthday,” Rossi said.