TODAY   |  May 12, 2011

Try these tips for avoiding skin cancer

Dermatologist Dr. Debra Wattenberg tells TODAY’s Natalie Morales that people should apply daily sunscreen, wear protective clothing and stay away from tanning beds to avoid damaging their skin.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> today to "today's health" and sun safety. skin cancer if detected early has a high cure rate. plus if you take the right precauti precautions you can significantly reduce your risk. doctor, good morning. good to have you here. it's a crucial time to start doing body checks.

>> absolutely. skin cancer really needs to be detected early. if it's not detected early it's not as curable. one in five americans is going to develop skin cancer at some time in their lifetime and one person dies every hour from melanoma. the earlier it is detected the better it is.

>> where should we be doing body checks? where should we look?

>> they're dependent on the actual individual. you should determine your risk base on your risk factors . do you have genetic history? do you have lots of moles all over your body. are they different sizes and shapes? do you spend a lot of time outdoors? if you had one blistering sun burn , you increase your risk of developing skin cancer by two-fold. you want to take all of these things into account when you determine how frequently you should be doing your body checks. best to see a dermatologist and determine how many times a year you should be seen and when you are doing your body checks, it's great go into a bathroom with great light and start at the top of your head, look all the way down to the bottom of your toes, everywhere in between. look between your toes, your fingers, areas where the sun doesn't shine. it doesn't matter. i tell people to strip down to their birthday suts and check.

>> i've heard of people who sadly saw what looked like a pin dot, it turned out to be melanoma and they died. personally. i've experienced that with a friend. let's talk about the a, b, c, and do melanoma.

>> asymmetry. you want your mole to be symmetric ka ol' both sides. if one side is different, that could be a problem. you don't want the mole to have any irregularity to it.

>> b is for border. how is that different for asymmetry that we saw there.

>> there should be a sharp border. there shouldn't be no notching. it should be clear, not fuzzy.

>> it should be regular.

>> it should not be irregularly. you can see that it should be very well demar indicated. the border should be sharp, very clean looking, a straight line in some way.

>> c is for color. as we look at colors, all these different colors, what do you not want to see.

>> you want the color to be all tones of color. you don't want different shades of brown or black. you don't want a color that mixes red or black or a little bit of gray in it. it really should be one color.

>> certainly scaling or bleeding, anything like that --

>> these definitely always an indicator that something at snooish d is for diameter. size is important as well.

>> we usually say the size of a pencil eraser, about 6 millimeters about about the cut-off. you want to have it looked at to make sure it's not an issue. not that all moles that are bigger than 6 millimeters are a problem, but they can be.

>> what if you see it changing in size? is that usually an indicator or could it just be a --

>> it could be e, evolving, and that's a big problem. this thing i find often very reliable is a person will come in and say this mole has changed. it's irregular, slightly change, irregular in color, itchy. usually it's an indicator that something is going on. exclusively it's just infamiliar torey but i like the evolving.

>> melanoma not the only type of skin cancer . there are two other types.

>> melanoma is the deadliest and can cause the most problem but basil and squamous. basil usually presents with a red or a dry scaling patch. it can look like a pimple that doesn't heal. and squamous cell carcinoma also can present as a scaling patch, usually in very chronically sun-exposed areas. you see this in people who are very fair, spent a lot of time outdoors.

>> keep track of your moles and go in for checks if you can. thank you very much.

>> thank you.