Moles. Freckles. Beauty marks. You name them, I have them. I'm a fair-skinned woman who loves the sun and sometimes forgets to reapply her sunblock, resulting in nasty sunburns.
I didn't care about the peeling or the aloe-application in my teen and college years. It was just part of a normal summer routine. In fact, I might have even been close to having sun poisoning during my college graduation trip to Hawaii. My friends and I laughed it off as part of the adventure, but looking back, my shoulders have never fully recovered. The freckles remain to tell the tale of serious sun exposure.
After a few skin-cancer scares with friends and family, my husband encouraged me to visit a dermatologist. Now that I'm in my thirties, I slather all sort of creams on to keep wrinkles and spots at bay, so I thought I was in good shape.
To my surprise, I left the doctor's office minus three moles that she'd promptly removed right on the spot. She said they were what she considered "suspicious" and that they could be pre-cancerous. Yep: She said the "C" word. Suddenly, wearing a parka to the beach this season didn't sound so bad.
So, off they came and away they went to the lab to be examined. Two weeks later, the results came back -- and the moles were benign. Good news, that's for sure. But I left that office with newfound respect for my skin.
The American Association for Dermatology suggests that you check your skin regularly for the following danger signs, also known as the "ABC and Ds" of melanoma:
A is for Asymmetry (as in, one half of your mole is different from the other half).
B is for Border (if it's irregular, scalloped or poorly defined, the mole could be cancerous).
C is for Color (if it varies from one area to another, contains shades of tan, brown and black -- or even white, red or blue -- see a dermo).
D is for Diameter (while melanomas are usually greater than 6mm in diameter -- the size of a pencil eraser -- they can be smaller).
If you notice a mole that's different from the others or which changes, itches or bleeds (even if it is small), you should see your dermatologist.
When outdoors, sunblock should be applied every 30 minutes (SPF 50 is preferred). And remember: Sunblock is better than sunscreen (one blocks, one screens; whatever keeps the most sun out is the winner). For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org.