The ABCs and Your Skin

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Lina Younes

As we get older, our skin changes.  As part of the natural aging process, it is not uncommon to develop age spots, also known as “liver spots”. Sometimes small growths of skin called skin tags raise to the surface as well. In general, these age tags and spots are harmless. However, some spots and growths might be signs of something much more worrisome than physical appearance alone. These changes may be due to the big “C:” skin cancer.

Studies show that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States largely due to overexposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. So how can you tell if that new growth or sore that doesn’t heal warrants a visit to the doctor?

Check the “ABCDE’s.  These letters stand for

A = Asymmetry (one part of the growth looks different than the other)

B = Borders that are irregular

C = Color changes or more than one color

D = Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser

E = Evolving. In other words the growth is changing in size, shape, symptoms, shades, or even bleeding.

In this case, you should see your doctor right away.

Last summer, my father who is in his 80’s noticed a skin spot that kept on evolving and sometimes bled. He showed it to my cousin, a dermatologist, who immediately ordered a biopsy. The test results showed that it was basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Luckily, it was in its early stages. During an out-patient procedure, the cancer was removed. My father quickly recovered and now monitors his skin regularly to see if there are any abnormal spots or growths.

What steps can be taken to prevent skin cancer?  Well, there are things you can do. What is Number one on the list? Take every day steps to sun safety.  You can enjoy the sun and outdoor activities with the right sunscreen protection and protective clothing. Seek the shade, especially during the times when the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM. Avoid tanning, whether under the sun or UV tanning booths.  Think of these tips during “Don’t Fry Day” and every day of the year!

Do you have any tips about sun safety that you would like to share with us? We will love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.