Summer is the season of picnics, BBQs, family reunions, and graduation parties. With kids enjoying summer break and daylight getting longer, many people take time off for vacation and spend more time outdoors under the hot sun. However, to safely enjoy those long hours outdoors, now is a good time to remind ourselves of the importance of preventing skin cancer.
Understanding Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in Canada, with melanoma being the most common type. Although skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, it is typically found in areas most commonly exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, such as the face, neck, hands, and arms. Visible signs of skin cancer include lumps or patches on the skin, changes in the appearance of moles, or the development of new growths on the skin.
It’s important to keep in mind that while skin cancer is primarily diagnosed based on visible changes in the skin, when it’s in an advanced stage, there may be other symptoms such as fatigue or weight loss.
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a cancer of the skin’s pigment-producing cells in the skin, and it tends to present itself as irregular-looking moles. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, roughly 9,000 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma in 2022 and 1,200 people died from it.
What are moles and should I worry about them?
Moles form when pigment-producing cells in the skin grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin. Most moles are flat, but sometimes they can be raised, and can range from pink, brown to black depending on your skin colour.
Generally, moles are harmless features of your skin, which will never cause any issues. But in some cases, UV exposure from the sun can cause a mole to change shape, size or colour and become cancerous. Contrary to common belief, a mole doesn’t have to be itchy or bleeding to warrant a check up. There are other, more subtle changes, and sometimes even no symptoms at all.
What to look for in a mole?
‘The “ABCDE” guide is widely used by skin specialists to help patients understand what they should be looking out for:
- ‘A – asymmetry, when half the mole doesn’t match the other
- ‘B – border, when the outline of the mole is irregular, ragged or blurred
- ‘C – colour, when it varies throughout and/or there appears to be no uniform colour
- ‘D – diameter, if it’s greater than 6mm
- ‘E – evolving, or changes in the mole.
How to proactively spot the signs of melanoma
Making a habit of examining your own skin on a monthly basis will help to detect any abnormal growths quickly. When discovered in its early stages, patients with melanoma have a 97 percent chance of surviving. It is thus important to know the location and appearance of the moles on the body in order to detect melanoma early.
Mole mapping is a type of screening used to detect skin cancer as early as possible. Mole mapping is a painless, safe, noninvasive approach to help detect melanoma. Also known as Automated Total Body Mapping (ATBM), it provides a way to track changes on your skin if you have a large number of unusual moles or if you have a history of skin cancer.
How does mole mapping work?
Mole mapping utilises photography to record images of the whole body. It consists of three steps:
Step 1: A camera that sits on a rail will move back and forth to capture a full body scan.
Step 2: Once all of the images have been transferred to the database, artificial intelligence is deployed to analyse them in order to provide a mole risk score.
Step 3: Your doctor can compare your moles with photos from your initial visit and immediately identify any changes or abnormalities.
Mole mapping is not a replacement for the clinical exam, but they can be used together to more thoroughly assess concerns related to your skin.
Request an appointment now with InvestMed to get a clearer picture of your health with packages suited to your personal needs, and enjoy a worry free summer.