Regular screenings can detect skin cancer while it's still curable

Posted at 7:30 PM, Jun 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-03 01:09:52-04

DENVER -- When Dr. Sabrina Newman of the University of Colorado Hospital tells you you’re getting a full body scan for skin cancer – she’s not kidding.

“What I typically do when I do skin checks is start at the scalp and I work my way down,” she told Denver7’s Lisa Hidalgo while examining her for signs of skin cancer. “We check between the toes because we can get moles there as well.”

Because Lisa has a history of sun exposure and damage, she gets her skin checked by a dermatologist twice a year. Sometimes she gets an extra check if she notices something during a self-examination.

The American Academy of Dermatology has created a simple guide of what to look for if you’re examining your own skin for problems. They call The ABCDEs of Melanoma.

Assymetrical – one side of a mole doesn’t look like the other.

Borders – if the border of a mole is notched or irregular, it may be more than just a mole.

Color – if the mole has different areas of light and dark colors, that could also be a warning sign.

Diameter – while melanomas can come in any size, anything larger than a pencil eraser, about six millimeters, is going to get a doctor’s attention.

Evolving – when that mole that you’ve had forever starts to change, that’s a good indication you need to go see a doctor.

Dr. Newman has one more suggestion.

“I typically tell folks to look for that ugly duckling, you know when you take a look at your own skin, that one doesn’t match anything else?  Those are good things to look for,” she told Lisa.

Dr. Newman said living at a high altitude and loving the outdoors puts us all at greater risk for skin cancer.

“With exposure it’s all year round. Even on cloudy days we have exposure to ultra violet rays,” she said, adding that the risk starts when you’re just a kid. “We know that even with one sunburn as child it increases our melanoma risk by 50 percent and if we have five or greater it’s an 80 percent increased risk for melanoma.”

To learn more about dangers of melanoma and what you can do to protect yourself, check out the American Academy of Dermatology or visit the Colorado Melanoma Foundation’s website.