Protect yourself and look for ABCD warning signs of melanoma — asymmetry, border, color, diameter

Posted on 13 May 2010 at 5:39pm
By DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Four Dallas-area hospitals will offer free skin cancer screenings on Saturday, May 22, with dermatologists available to check moles and other spots for signs of cancer and determine if further analysis is necessary.

"Skin cancer is on the rise," said Suzanne Hall-Lewis with HSC Marketing, the company helping organize the event.

Overexposure to the sun poses the greatest risk of contracting skin cancer. Tanning beds are also a danger.

When use of tanning beds begins before the age of 30, the chance of contracting melanoma increases by 75 percent.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer upgraded tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category — "carcinogenic to humans" from "probably carcinogenic to humans." That puts them in the same category as tobacco.

The National Cancer Institute said to look for the A-B-C-D warning signs of melanoma.

A is asymmetry of a spot or mole. B is the border of the spot, which is often ragged. C refers to the color, often uneven. Shades of black, brown, tan with areas of white, grey, red, pink or blue may be seen. D is the diameter. The spot should be checked when there is an increase in size. Melanomas are usually larger than one-quarter inch.

Sometimes all of these symptoms appear.

On some people just one or two of the ABCD warning signs develop.

"Melanoma is the most important skin cancer to catch early," said Dr. Nick Bellos.

Squamous and basal cell carcinomas are two other common types of skin cancer.

The flat cells that form the surface of the skin are the squamous cells.

Basal cells are the small round cells found in the base of the epidermis. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of cancer with more than 1 million cases diagnosed every year.

Bellos said microscopic Mohs surgery is the most commonly used method of removing the carcinoma.

"They shave a layer of cells and look under a microscope," he said. The procedure is repeated until no more cancerous cells are found.

The cure rate using this procedure is about 98 percent for the first appearance of basal cell cancer.

"Any moles that change — it’s good to get them checked," Bellos said.

At last year’s screening at Presbyterian Hospital, of 138 people who were screened, 48 people were referred for follow-up.

The four hospitals offering the free screenings from 8 a.m. to noon this year are Baylor, Medical City, Harris Methodist HEB and Medical Center of Plano. No appointments are necessary, but Hall-Lewis said more than 1,100 people participated last year. She advised arriving early.


Get Screened

The four area hospitals listed here will be offering free skin cancer screenings on Saturday, May 22.

• Baylor University Medical Center, 3500 Gaston Ave., 2nd Floor, AM Admit, Hoblitzelle Bldg., Dallas 75246.

• Medical City Dallas Hospital, 7777 Forest Lane, Building A, Day Surgery, 2nd Floor, North Tower, Dallas 75230.

• Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford, 1600 Hospital Parkway, Edwards Cancer Center, Ground Floor, Bedford 76022.

• The Medical Center of Plano, 3901 W. 15th St., Plano 75075. Use north emergency entrance.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 14, 2010.

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