Oh, that glorious sun! It can make things grow. It is
necessary for healthy bone growth, and it can make your skin
glow and look good. However, too much sun can cause skin
cancer. Melanoma is the most serious and deadly type of skin
cancer. Because of that, it is the leading cause of death from
skin diseases, and it is on the rise.
Melanoma develops in the melanocytes, cells located in the
epidermis layer of the skin. Melanocytes produce melanin,
which gives the skin its color or pigmentation. When you tan in
the sun and become darker, it is the melanocytes increasing the
production of melanin that gives you the darkening or tanning
of your skin. Clusters of these melanocytes form moles. Often,
the first sign of melanoma can be found in moles.
Moles in their normal state can be in any color that is closest
to the person’s natural skin color. Moles may be raised or flat
with a round and smooth shape. Any change in the mole is
worth noting. The National Cancer Institute suggests using
the acronym ABCD for remembering what to look for when
a mole changes. A is for asymmetry. Is one-half of the mole
different from the other half ? B is for border. Is the border
of the mole smooth and regular or is it irregular and ragged?
C is for color. Changes in the color of a mole, including a
mixture of colors within a mole may be dangerous. D is for
diameter. Has the mole grown larger? There are other changes
in moles that can give cause for concern such as bleeding,
scaling, itchiness or a change in the texture of the mole. Any
sore that does not heal, lumps or growths on the skin may be
warning signs. Change is the key word. If you have a problem
or concern about your skin, do not try to diagnose yourself. See
Most of the risk factors for melanoma have to do with the
sun and/or ultraviolet light such as living in a sunny climate,
a job or other activities that lead to long term exposure in the
sunlight, excessive tanning and receiving serious sunburns
as a child. There are ways you can protect yourself. Wear a
sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. Try to lessen your contact with
the sun between the hours of 10:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m.
Wear sunglasses, protective clothing and a hat. None of this is
a guarantee that you will not get skin cancer, but you may be
bringing down the odds.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute
medical advice. Consult with your physician if you have questions
regarding this topic.
Written by Betty Tryon, R. N.