Look Here: Where Melanomas Most Often Occur

We’ve all heard about the ABCDE’s of skin cancer: Asymmetrical shape of a mole, Borders that are unclear or unusual, Color that is different or a mole with more than one color, Diameter of a mole being larger than 6 mm, and Evolution, which notes changes to a mole over time. While watching the moles you have on your body for changes is important, scientists in Italy have recently published data that proves the most common places for melanoma to occur isn’t your existing moles, it’s the rest of your skin. In fact, melanomas arise as new lesions on the skin in 71% of cases.1,2

Risks of melanoma in other places

The researchers reviewed 38 previously published studies that included more than 20,000 cases of melanoma. The melanomas began in existing moles in only 29% of cases, and researchers pointed out that skin without moles is at a greater risk for melanoma. In addition, they found that melanomas that arise on their own are generally more aggressive than melanomas that begin in moles. This suggests there may be differences in the two types of skin cancer, although additional studies are needed to understand more.2

Check all possible locations on your body

Self-examinations and skin examinations by a dermatologist should always include the whole-body surface. While suspicious moles need to be checked out, the entire skin surface, including under fingernails and toenails, the scalp, buttocks, behind the ears, and on the bottoms of your feet. When doing a self-check at home, grab a buddy or a partner to help you check your back and places you can’t see. Mirrors are also helpful: both a hand mirror and a mirror on the wall.2-5

Keep an eye out for new spots that appear, as well as checking your existing moles. As you do self-checks regularly (experts recommend monthly), you’ll become familiar with the moles have always been with you and which are new.2

Don’t forget the sun safety

The biggest risk factor for melanomas is exposure to UV light, which includes being out in the sun or artificial light from tanning beds. Protect your skin by avoiding tanning beds, reducing time outdoors when the sun is at its peak, seeking shade, and wearing sunscreen and protective clothing like long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses.5

Remember that melanomas, and all skin cancers, are most treatable when they are caught early. Practicing regular skin checks and healthy sun habits gives you the best chances of catching any skin cancers early when treatment is most effective.5

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