The month of May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Since the 1980s, the American Academy of Dermatology has run an awareness campaign surrounding skin cancer, providing free cancer screenings at participating dermatologists. I talked about skin cancer heavily in my sunscreen post, but just to recap, skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the US.
Getting a skin cancer screening is simple. The doctor provides you with a gown and you undress, except for your undergarments, and they will look at each mole and ask you about any other moles on your body. If the doctor finds a worrisome mole, they will numb you up with a local anesthetic and gently remove it so they can do a biopsy on the mole in question. It doesn’t take long, and it can save your life.
Men should especially do this because moles can hide under body hair for years, morphing into a cancerous lesion without you even knowing. Seriously — my dad had an enormous melanoma removed from his beard after nearly two decades of not even noticing it existed (the melanoma, not the beard).
As I said before, skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color.
If you’d like to get a free skin cancer screening, here is a list of participating dermatologists.
If you have a mole that you are uncertain about, the AAD has also provided a body mole map, showing you how to record and identify your moles. You can find those here. They’ve also created a short guide on spotting cancerous moles, which you can find here. However, not all moles look like melanoma, which is why it is best to get checked by a professional.
If you’re prone to moles, have burned five or more times in your life, or just get a lot of sun regularly, don’t neglect this important part of skin cancer prevention. Treating skin cancer is incredibly painful, requiring huge chunks of skin being cut out and grafted with healthier parts of the skin. Don’t let it get this far: use sunscreen and get your moles checked.