How Well Do You Know Your ABCs?


May is Skin Cancer Awareness month.  According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States…[and] over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.”   Since Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) is responsible for 90% of all skin cancers, taking preventative measures decreases your risk factor for this potentially deadly disease.  Here’s what skin cancer is, the different types, what to look out for and guidelines to prevent it.

About Skin Cancer

Skin cancer happens when DNA becomes irreversibly damaged, giving way to the growth of abnormal skin cells that are capable of invading and destroying surrounding normal skin cells and tissues. When the damaged cells multiply, a visible tumor is typically formed.

The difference between a benign tumor and a malignant tumor is that benign tumors are non cancerous, they won’t usually grow back when removed, and the cells do not invade the surrounding tissue, whereas malignant tumors are cancerous,  can grow back after they have been removed, and they invade tissues, organs and metastasize (invades surrounding tissue).

Types of Skin Cancer



Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer because of its ability to metastasize and spread to lymph nodes, blood, distant tissues and organ systems.  If it is detected and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it’s left untreated, it can often be fatal.


Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

This is the most common form of skin cancer in the U.S.  It can manifest itself like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps or scars, or a brown or black lesion that could be mistaken for a mole.  Considered to be the most benign form of skin cancer as it grows the slowest and is the least likely to metastasize, removal can lead to scarring or disfiguring.


Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous Cell Carcinoma chiefly affects the superficial layers of the epidermis (top layer of the skin).  This type of skin cancer is characterized by a red, rough or flaky appearance and causes the skin to thicken.  It is most common in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the rim of the ear, lower lip, face, bald scalp, neck, hands, arms and legs.  97% of SCC does not spread, however if metastasis occurs, scarring, disfigurement or death is probable.


Actinic Keratosis (AK)

Actinic keratosis can be a precursor to skin cancer that if left untreated, can develop into SCCs.  The appearance of AK is rough and scaly, and they can be tan, red, pink or flesh-colored.  Studies have shown that 60% of squamous cell carcinomas began as actinic keratosis.


ABCDEs of Melanoma

Asymmetry  If you draw a line through this mole, the two halves will not match.

Border The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven, irregular, scalloped or notched.

Color  Coloring varies from one area to another- different shades if brown, tan, or black- and it can become red, blue or some other color.

Diameter  Melanomas are usually larger than the size of the eraser on your pencil ( ¼ inch or 6mm) but they can be smaller when first detected.

Evolution  Any changes in size, shape, color, elevation or new symptoms such as bleeding itching or crusting.


Prevention Guidelines

  • Use broad spectrum sunscreen every day (SPF 15 or higher) and reapply every 2 hours or so, especially when outside
  • Seek shade, if possible, between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Do not burn
  • Avoid UV tanning and UV tanning booths
  • Wear protective clothing, hats and sunglasses
  • Conduct yearly exams with a dermatologist and self-exam

I hope this post was helpful and remember: when in doubt, have it checked out!  It’s better to be safe than putting your life in jeopardy.


Disclaimer: The contents on this website, and any related links, are provided for general informational purposes and should NOT be considered medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. Please consult a healthcare provider if you have any questions about a particular health condition.

16 thoughts on “How Well Do You Know Your ABCs?

  1. Thanks for sharing this Stephanie! This article is very important, especially to me. My Mom was just diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma. 😦 She is going to probably be starting radiation soon and more tumors are likely to pop up. Now she has a huge sore on her nose where the tumor was removed and biopsied. This stuff is no joke! Everyone please protect yourself from the sun!

    • Oh, I am so sorry to hear this Katie. 😦 I will keep her in my prayers as well. It isn’t something to take lightly, I agree. Even tanning beds are a risk and I am glad a lot of states are banning it too.

      • Thank you so much! I really appreciate it! I haven’t told many people about it but I’m very worried about my Mom. She already has enough stress in her life being a full-time caregiver to my younger brother and she also has the same illnesses that I have and more. She really deserves a break. 😦 I went in tanning beds when I was younger so I’m pretty sure I’m probably at risk too. I want to get a skin check done sometime just to be on the safe side. It’s sunblock and staying out of the sun for me! Thank you so much though for praying for her. I really appreciate it!! ❤ xo

      • Of course Katie. I think I know how you feel. I have a cousin who had a very terrible accident years back and is basically can’t do anything for himself anymore. From being an active individual he now has to be fed, turned around, changed, etc. I know the struggle my aunt and uncle go through. They do get help from nurses though for a few hours and working to get more. Does your mom have nurses who help her? I can see the system is horrible at providing assistance for those who are disabled. 😦 I’ll pray that she gets better soon! If you ever need to vent, just email me. I’ve seen firsthand what it’s like.

      • Thank you so much Stephanie. My Mom does have people that come in and help but she only qualifies for so many hours. She is working on getting 24/7 care right now. My Mom has always fought hard to get everything my brother needs. She is a wonderful Mom. I know how hard it can be to take care of him as I used to help take care of him too. I’ve showered him, changed him, fed him…I used to be able to help a lot before I came down with Fibro and Sjogren’s. I’m just glad that I will be nearby permanently soon.

      • Yes, you have to fight for what you want; otherwise they will just give you the bare minimum. Wishing her good luck with that too. So glad you will be moving back to where you will be close to family. Support groups are always important. 🙂

      • Thanks Stephanie I am so glad too. Thank you for being such a great friend. You’re so caring, supportive, and encouraging. 🙂 ❤ xo

  2. Pingback: Skin Tip: The ABCs of Skin Cancer! | Stephie Estie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s