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Skin Cancer 101: Melanoma Screening Tips from ZocDoc’s Dr. Arthur Colsky

There are only a few weeks of bona fide summer left, but just because beach days are coming to an end, that doesn’t mean you should be any less vigilant about your sun protection. Now is the time to keep an eye out for early warning signs of skin cancer like melanoma—which is why we enlisted ZocDoc dermatologist Dr. Arthur Colsky to tell us his best tips for monitoring and preventing a sun damage skin disaster. 

Know Your Risk Factors

A family history of melanoma, a number of moles on your body and if you have fair skin, light colored eyes or red/blonde hair—these are all genetic indicators that could make you more susceptible to sun induced skin cancers. Melanoma isn’t only caused by sun exposure, but it is strongly related. If you fall into any of the groups above, you should be be having examinations at least once a year. If you’ve previously had skin cancer, even if it’s not a melanoma, you should see your dermatologist at least twice a year.

Use the ABCDE Rule With Moles

Here’s what to look for on our spotty little friends: 

Assymetry. If you were to draw a line down the middle in any direction, both halves of the mole should look identical. If one half looks different, that’s something to be concerned about.

Border irregularity. Look at the edges of the mole—if it’s smooth and even, good. If it’s jagged, that’s another warning sign.

Color. A normal mole will usually have a uniform color—typically one shade of light brown or brown. In a mole that’s concerning, often times you’ll see different colors: dark brown, light brown, red, white or black areas.

Diameter. Any mole that’s bigger than a pencil eraser or 6mm is considered suspect.

Evolving. Any mole that’s changing in size, shape, color or texture. It might be itching, burning or bleeding—these are all things to take note of.

If you find a mole that matches the warning signs, don’t panic, but do make an appointment to get it checked out by a dermatologist. 

Prevention Tips

Avoid sun as much as you can, but when you can’t, use protective clothing like long sleeves, long pants, wide rim hats, and sunglasses that have UV protection (because even eye are susceptible to melanoma).  Also, wear broad-spectrum sunblock that protects against UVA and UVB rays, and at least an SPF 30. The key is reapplying throughout the day—if you’re at the beach or pool, reapply every 30-60 minutes. If you’re inside the office, you should still wear sunscreen since new research has shown that even lightbulbs emit some UV rays.

Above all else, know this: there’s no such thing as a safe tan. By the time you’re tan, the damage has been done, and your skin is just trying to protect itself by creating a darkening effect. If you want a tan without the risk, use a sunless tanner


Not to worry, we’ve got everything you need to stay safe from the sun. Here’s the sun protection you need in the Birchbox Shop.

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