Idaho has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the nation, and local doctors are saying they are seeing the increase not only in cases, but younger people – even teenagers – getting the melanoma diagnosis.
Doctor Adam Wray, dermatologist with the Bingham Dermatology Center, said all it takes is seeing a concerning spot for a patient to come in and get checked for a potential problem.
"That's the most important thing,” said Wray. “Any mole or anything that's new, any mole that's changing, getting bigger, getting darker, something that's itching, burning or bleeding should be evaluated."
Wray said there is an easy way to remember what to look for. He said to just remember A, B, C and D.
A is for asymmetry, meaning one half of the mole isn't the same as the other. B is for irregular border, meaning the edges of the mole are splotchy and uneven. C is for color variation, meaning your mole has different colors. D is for diameter, meaning anything bigger than a pencil eraser should be checked.
"We've added an E to that,” Wray said. “E is for anything evolving or changing. I feel like the most important thing that our patients can look for is anything new or changing."
Wray said men most commonly see melanoma form on their backs, and women see it most commonly on their legs. He said melanoma can form anywhere, and if it forms on a part of the body like the ears or nose and isn't caught in time, it can leave you permanently disfigured because of how much of the area they would have to removed to get rid of the cancer.
Wray said sun exposure is a key part of preventing skin cancer, and said everyone should wear sunscreen every day, even during the winter months. He also said it may take several mirrors or the help of a significant other, but you need to check the places we can't see with your eyes.
"It literally can occur anywhere,” said Wray. “It can occur where the sun doesn't shine. We see melanoma occur on the palms, soles and I've seen it under the fingernails and toenails."
Wray said he doesn't want to scare anyone into thinking they should just avoid the sun. He said you just take the proper precautions when doing so.
He did warn against tanning beds, saying tanning lotions and sprays have come a long way to no longer look unnatural.
Wray also said it's best to avoid being in the sun between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. He said sunscreen takes about 30 minutes to get into your skin, so make sure you apply it half an hour before going outside.