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How to Check Your Skin for Signs of Melanoma, According to a Dermatologist
After multiple Bravo stars have opened up about their skin cancer scares, a celebrity dermatologist shares important tips for checking your skin.
Braunwyn Windham-Burke recently opened up about her melanoma diagnosis — and she's not the only Bravo star to be diagnosed with skin cancer. Andy Cohen shared his skin cancer scare that started as a dot on his lip, and was found to be melanoma. Ariana Madix also revealed that she had a mole for years that was eventually tested by a dermatologist and was positive for melanoma.
With so many Bravo stars opening up about their experiences, we decided to check in with a celebrity dermatologist to get the facts on what we need to be looking out for. BravoTV.com chatted with Beverly Hills cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Simon Ourian, who counts Lisa Vanderpump as a patient, to learn how you can keep your skin safe before the summer sunshine (and in general).
Wear Sunscreen Daily
Dr. Simon Ourian recommends that “everyone wear sunscreen daily… Not only does this protect you from skin cancer it also helps with premature aging.” Further, he suggests that sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going in the sun and notes “if you have light skin, or are prone to getting discoloration of your moles,” he recommends “wearing protective clothing when in the sun.” Also, “if you do a lot of activities, wear a sun mask that looks like a ski mask to cover your face as well.”
Get Your Skin Checked Yearly
Dr. Ourian recommends seeing a dermatologist “at least once every year to get your skin checked.” However, “if you are considered an at-risk patient, then your dermatologist should schedule you more frequently.” Ariana shared that she gets her skin checked by a specialist every six months after her cancer was diagnosed. Dr. Ourian notes that “most dermatologists can get pictures of your body and ‘map’ your moles to compare them year after year.”
Areas that are more prone to getting skin cancer are “your face, hands, ears, and feet… because they are more likely to be exposed to the sun constantly.” However, “there is not just one specific skin type or age range that is more prone to skin cancer.” Dr. Ourian explains that “anyone that has been exposed to major sun exposure is more susceptible to skin cancer. It also depends on your family history and skin type (the lighter your skin the higher your risk).”
Know The ABCDEs of Malignant Moles
Dr. Ourian explains “It is most important to make it a priority to watch the basic changes, color, and shapes of your moles and make sure they are not becoming irregular.” In addition to a doctor mapping your moles, something you can do at home to keep track is “take pictures of all your moles with a ruler next to them so that you can compare them every year.” Here are the ABCDEs of moles that can help you understand how to self-examine your skin moles:
A is for Asymmetry: most melanomas are asymmetrical.
B is for Border: melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges.
C is for Color: multiple colors are a warning sign.
D is for Diameter or Dark: if it is 6 mm or larger or darker than other moles.
E is for Evolving: if there is any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching, or crusting, it may be a warning sign of melanoma.
If you are monitoring a mole and you think it may be a melanoma or a different type of skin cancer, you should have it checked by your doctor or dermatologist. Dr. Ourian says “to accurately test melanoma, it is routine to get a biopsy done.” During the biopsy “the mole, and any growth around it, is removed.”
Then it is sent for testing by a pathologist. If the results come back positive, there are several courses of action. Dr. Ourian explains that “it depends on what stage of melanoma is being treated.” Typically, in early stage it is “the removal of the area… But there are many types of treatments your doctor can recommend depending on the stage.”
More Than Moles…
Also, checking markings on your skin should go beyond moles. Dr. Ourian explains that “anything on your body raised, irritated, lumpy, or any lesions that have been on your body for some time is a red flag.” Just like in Andy Cohen’s case, “it is not always just a mole that is the direct source, and that is why it is so important to stay on top of your skincare and skincare regimen and get your annual checkup.”
Also, when it comes to tanning your skin, Dr. Ourian explains that “using a safe spray tan or self-tanner is the only way to have a tan… tanning beds and laying in the sun are not safe.”