Healthy Living

Skin Cancer Check: Know the ABCs

May. 5, 2017

The bad news: there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined, according to the American Center Society. The good news: Skin cancer is almost always curable if caught early. Better yet: Take steps to protect your skin and avoid skin cancer entirely, says UR Medicine dermatologist Dr. Marc Brown.Doctor checking a person's back for skin cancer

There are three types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma. While each calls for medical attention, melanoma is the most serious as it is the type of skin cancer most likely to spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.

What Can You Do?

A few simple steps can help you avoid some of the more serious consequences of skin cancer.

  • Sun screen: Take steps to protect yourself from sun exposure, like using sun screen, wearing a hat and protective clothing, and avoiding the sun when it is most intense. (Click here for more sun-safety tips.)
  • Skin screen: Once a month, do a careful check of your skin, paying special attention to any moles you have. Check for new moles and changes in existing moles. Follow the skin-check ABCs, and look for:
    • Asymmetry—does is lack balance in its shape or size?
    • Border irregularity—are its edges jagged? 
    • Color changes—has the shade of it changed or does it bleed? 
    • Diameter growth—is it bigger?
    • Evolution—has it changed in any other way?

If you notice any changes, it’s a good idea to have your health provider take a look. Early detection of skin cancer can be a life-saver.



Marc Brown, MD


Marc Brown, M.D., is a professor of Dermatology who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of skin cancers. He also runs a multidisciplinary melanoma group practice in conjunction with the Wilmot Cancer Center.