Is a new spot on your skin melanoma?

May 30, 2018 | by Lucio Pavone, M.D.

Have you been outside more now that warm temperatures are at your doorstep? Whether you’ve woken up early to begin gardening as soon as the sun reaches the horizon or you’ve gotten your kids outside early on the weekend for a ballgame, you may be forgetting one thing — sunscreen.

When you realize you forgot to wear sunscreen, it’s often too late. Once you feel that burning sensation on your skin, it doesn’t take long — your skin will be red and feel tight before you know it.

Exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can lead to more than just a sunburn, it can also lead to melanoma. You’ve probably been told to check your skin for any changes, like a new bump, blemish or dark, unsightly mole, but you should also check your skin for new spots, since most melanoma starts from new changes in your skin and not existing moles.

In a recent study from the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, researchers found that 29 percent of melanomas came from an existing mole on the body that changed. In 71 percent of the cases, melanoma occurred in a new lesion that popped up in a new place on the skin.

Since melanoma is much easier to treat successfully if it is found early, is important for you to be on the lookout for changes or new spots and tell your doctor about new spots.

Following the ABCDE rule of melanoma can help you recognize any changes in your skin. Also, be aware of other warning signs of melanoma:

  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
  • Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole
  • Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness or pain

Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding or the appearance of a lump or bump You should regularly examine your skin for any changes and have your physician check your back and any other hard-to-see areas. Other ways to help yourself and reduce your risk of developing melanoma include: 

  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF of at least 30
  • Wear protective clothing, including long sleeves, a hat and sunglasses that protect your eyes
  • Avoid going outside in the mid-day sun, when the sun’s rays are most intense
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Protect your children — just one bad sunscreen in childhood or adolescence can double a child’s chances of developing melanoma later on in life

A sunburn is just one of the many short-term results of too much exposure to UV rays—there are long-term effects, too. Long-term exposure from the sun can cause early skin aging, wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, dark patches and precancerous skin changes.

This doesn’t mean you have to avoid the sun completely—you just have to plan ahead and lather up with sunscreen early and often. Protect your skin now and enjoy healthier, younger-looking skin later. How will you remind yourself to wear sunscreen this summer?

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