Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do I need an annual skin screening if I am not white?"
My wife is white. I am black and 28. She's noticed several new moles on me and suggested I get a skin screening. Is this necessary? I thought African Americans weren't very likely to get skin cancer.
While you are correct that African Americans are less likely to get skin cancer than are different skin types that are more fair, your wife ultimately wins for being the most right, as skin cancer can occur with any group. Things that are concerning are any skin lesion or mole that has irregular borders, grows, is large, or bleeds. The mnemonic ABCDE is helpful, with A standing for asymmetry, B for irregular Borders, C for multiple colors within the mole or color changes over time, and D for diameter larger than the rubber eraser on the back of your pencil, and finally E for evolving, or changes, over time.
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If your moles have any of these features, than you should be seen by a doctor to have them evaluated. Another factor that is even more important is if a mole is bleeding, it should be see very soon, as this can be an especially bad sign. While you are right that darker skin types are less likely to have skin cancer, all groups are vulnerable to some degree. Play it safe and schedule a skin screening with your primary care doctor or dermatologist just to make sure.
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