In the summer heat, we’re all about feeling confident and showing some skin, but with that comes a safety hazard: smear on plenty of sunscreen or increase your risk of skin cancer. And while doctors recommend getting mole checks in fall and winter, now’s the best time to keep a close eye on any changes in your skin.
“I generally recommend getting a skin check in the fall or winter because people often notice changes or new moles in the summer,” New York City dermatologist Sejal Shah tells Yahoo Beauty. “If you have a suspicious mole, see your dermatologist ASAP for an evaluation.”
Shah recommends doing regular self-checks, making note of changes in any of your moles and being sure to keep a close eye on anything that might be irregular. Summer is the easiest time to do this since you’re more likely to be looking at your skin, and the sun can enhance changes. “Also when it’s cooler outside, people are more covered up and may not notice changes or new moles as easily, so it’s a good time to get that skin check with your doctor,” says Shah.
If you’re behind schedule on your annual mole check, or if you see any new developments, Shah says it’s important to get it checked as soon as possible, even if you’ve already had your yearly skin check.
So what exactly happens when sun exposure causes moles to start changing? “Sun exposure can damage DNA in skin cells, including melanocytes [the pigment producing cells that make up moles],” Shah says. “These mutations in the DNA can cause melanocytes to grow out of control and potentially result in an atypical mole or a melanoma.”
The best way to prevent this is to keep your skin protected from the sun and know your risk. “You should be applying sunscreen evenly all over your body, taking special care in all the exposed areas. Skin cancers can arise de novo, in other words, in areas where there is no preexisting mole,” Shah explains. “You may notice changes in the mole’s shape, size, color, or have other symptoms such as itching or bleeding of the mole.”
Be sure to know your ABCDEs of moles to check yourself. If your mole is Asymmetrical, has irregular Borders, contains more than one Color, has a Diameter bigger than the size of a pencil eraser, or Evolves over time, you need to get it checked.
Know your skin and stay safe this summer!
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