Fall… the Perfect Time to Assess Effects of Summer Sun

Posted on December 5, 2008 under Skin Cancer | Be the First to Comment

After summer sun, winter, a good time for full body scan

After exposure to summer sun, fall is a good time to get a body scan.

The fall is an excellent time to have the effects of summer sun on the skin and scalp carefully assessed.  Slight discolorations, moles that have changed and scaly patches on frequently exposed areas of the body are all worth a look, as precancerous conditions can be nipped in the bud if identified early and melanoma caught early can be more easily treated.

While a full-body dermatological scan is a wise annual commitment for those who spend lots of time in the sun over the summer, there are the ABCDE rules of melanoma detection that individuals can use any time of year.

The ABCDE rules of melanoma detection include: A (asymmetry) – does the right side look like a mirror image of the left? B (border) – is the border irregular? C-does the mole have different colors? D- Is the diameter larger than 6 mm, the size of a pencil head eraser? E (evolution) -has the mole evolved over time?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it is important to see a dermatologist as soon as possible.  Early detection means better survival.
A study published in the Archives of Dermatology revealed that patients with melanomas detected by a dermatologist had better outcomes than when detected by non-dermatologists.  The study was a retrospective study of over 2000 patients.

According to the study, melanomas detected by a certified dermatologist were detected at an earlier stage, were thinner and had better survival rates.  When the melanomas were detected by dermatologists, the six months, two years, and five years survival rates were 98 percent, 87 percent and 74 percent respectively.  Conversely, when detected by a non dermatologist, the rates were 95 percent, 79 percent and 69 percent respectively.
While there may be many explanations for these results, such as a patient choosing to see to a specialist and more insistent on getting a mole evaluated, or the primary care physician addressing other serious medical issues at that same visit.

The universal truth is that the key to survival of melanoma is… early detection.  The sooner a patient detects and appropriately has the cancer removed, the better the chances of survival.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that individuals have their  skin carefully examined each year, with careful assessment of new spots or changes in the size, color, shape, or texture of existing spots and moles.