When a funny looking mole “suddenly” appears on your skin, it may be something more than a blemish.
According to the American Cancer Society, that irregular shaped blemish may actually be a condition called “dysplastic nevus syndrome” or “familial atypical multiple mole-melanoma syndrome,” which makes you more likely to develop melanoma.
Statistics show that about 3 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer, the most common form of cancer, each year. Of those diagnosed with skin cancer, more than 76,000 will be diagnosed with melanoma.
If left untreated, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body. If the cells reach vital organs and grow, the American Cancer Society says they are hard to treat and less likely to be cured.
Melanoma is a cancer that starts in melanocytes, which are the cells that make the skin coloring called melanin and protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Melanoma cancer cells can still make melanin, and the American Cancer Society says this is why these cancers may have mixed shades of tan, brown, blue or black.

Who is at risk?
Everyone is at some risk for melanoma, however, the risk factor increases for those with greater sun exposure, those who have a number of moles on the skin, and for those who have a family history of melanoma.
Sun Exposure: According to research from the Skin Cancer Foundation, both UVA and UVB rays are dangerous to the skin, and can induce skin cancer, including melanoma. Blistering sunburns in early childhood especially increase risk, but sunburns later in life and cumulative exposure also may be factors.
Avoid using a tanning booth or tanning bed, since it increases your exposure to UV rays, raising your risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers.
Skin Type: People with fairer skin (who often have lighter hair and eye color as well) are at increased risk.
Family History: Heredity plays a major role in melanoma, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. About one in every 10 patients diagnosed with the disease has a family member with a history of melanoma.
If your mother, father, siblings or children have had a melanoma, you are in a melanoma-prone family. Each person with a first-degree relative diagnosed with melanoma has a 50 percent greater chance of developing the disease.

The best protection against melanoma, according to the American Cancer Society and the Skin Cancer Foundation, is to use limit exposure to the sun.  For those who can not avoid exposure, the organizations recommend using sun screen, SPF 15 or higher, and covering exposed skin. A wide-brimmed hat and UV-protected sunglasses are also recommended.
Children should never be allowed to get a sun burn.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that skin not only be protected in the summer months from harmful UV rays, but year round.
The organization also recommends that you examine your skin from head-to-toe at lease once a month, looking for suspicious lesions.

Know the ABDCEs of Melanoma
Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless – but not always. Anyone who has more than 100 moles is at greater risk for melanoma. The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles. That’s why it’s so important to get to know your skin very well and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body. Look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with a physician immediately.

Asymmetry: If you draw a line through the middle of a mole and the two sides match, it is symmetrical. If you draw a line through a mole, the two halves do not match, it is asymmetrical, a warning sign for melanoma.

Boarder: A benign mole has smooth, even borders, unlike melanomas. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.

Color: Most benign moles are all one color – often a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.

Diameter: Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on pencil tip (¼ inch or 6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.

Evolving: Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. When a mole is evolving, see a doctor. Any change – in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting – points to danger.


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