Check for signs of skin cancer early with the ABCDE’s of Melanoma

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The sun can feel good during the summer months, but it's no friend to the skin if exposed for too long. While the effects aren't immediate, the sun's rays will eventually give the skin wrinkles, age spots, and sometimes skin cancer.

Dr. Jill Onesti, a surgical oncologist at the Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center, explains some of the ways people can protect their skin and reduce the risks of getting melanoma.

75,000 patients are diagnosed with melanoma each year. Melanoma can affect everyone, but is more common in people with fair skin and those with a family history of skin cancer.

While tanning is part of the process to protect the body from the sun's harmful UV rays, there's no such thing as a safe tan. When people repeatedly expose themselves to the sun, tanning beds, or blistering sunburns increases the chance of getting cancer.

Sometimes skin cancer can result in getting new and irregular lesions on the skin. A simple way to evaluate new moles or blemishes on the skin is through the ABCDE's of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: if a lesion doesn't look the same on both sides.
  • Borders: look for irregular borders that aren't smooth and round.
  • Color: darker or multiple shades of skin lesion.
  • Diameter: size bigger than an eraser on a pencil.
  • Evolution: the skin lesion that has changed since last looking at it.

If a person notices one of these findings, they should go to the doctor to evaluate and biopsy that part of the skin.

Fortunately most melanomas can be diagnosed at an early stage and can be treated safely with surgery. Treatment usually involves removing a large portion of the skin and soft tissue where the lesion is, which may include checking the lymph nodes.

For more advanced skin cancers, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation may be necessary.

The best way to fight melanoma is to stay out of the sun and wear as much protection as possible. This can range from a large hat and sunglasses, and always applying sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

For more information on Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center or melanoma treatments, visit

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