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 June 13, 2003
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Detecting Skin Cancer
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As many of us know, sun exposure can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. More specifically malignant melanoma.  If it spreads, there is no cure, but knowing how to prevent it and how to recognize it can save your life. 

The first thing Traci Milkanin does every morning is slather on sunscreen.  She only uses SPF 45, even in the winter. When she's outside, Traci wears protective clothing and a hat.  Why?  Because she recently had a mole removed, a malignant melanoma that could have killed her. 

"It was so tiny.  It was raised a little bit. It was right there in the middle of my neck. It looked like a little speck of mud", says Traci.

Knowing what to look for can help you spot cancer early, while it's still curable with surgery.  Use the "ABCD" rule to remember warning signs:

A is for asymmetry. Your moles should be round, or oddly shaped.

B is for border.  Your moles should have smooth edges, not jagged ones.                         

C is for color. Malignant moles are often black or multi-toned.

D is for diameter. Your moles should not be bigger than the size of a pencil eraser. 

Dermatologist Leslie Christenson says, "The biggest thing that I would want them to look for is a changing mole. Anything that is changing or suddenly a new mole." 

A new mole like the one Traci spotted on her neck.  She is lucky, but Dr. Christenson says too many people who get malignant melanoma are not.

People with fair skin, blue or green eyes, light hair or those with a family history of melanoma need to be extra careful in the sun.  Dr. Christenson recommends everyone should check their skin and have a dermatologist do an exam every few years.

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