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Free skin checks on "Melanoma Monday"

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Anyone can sign up for a free skin check at Sanford Dermatology in Fargo on May 6th.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month – and Sanford Health in Fargo is hosting a free skin cancer screening next week to mark the occasion.

Anyone who has not had a screening in the last two years can schedule an appointment for “Melanoma Monday” on May 6th. Appointments will be available all afternoon and can be scheduled by calling the dermatology clinic or going online to sanfordhealth.org.

Siri Thaden is clinic manager for Sanford Dermatology. She says skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, with melanoma being the most deadly. And she says people in the Midwest may find themselves particularly susceptible.

"We only get about three months of summer, it feels like - and by that time, people are going out, they haven't been exposed to a lot of sun for the last nine months - and they maybe overdo it. They get the sunburn or don't reapply that SPF. Those things do increase the risk of getting skin cancer, and that's why do we do see higher instances of skin cancer in the Midwest."

Thaden says wearing at least 30 SPF sunscreen and reapplying often, as well as wearing protective clothing are some of the best protection against damage from the sun.

Patients are encouraged to get their skin checked annually. Thaden says a dermatologist use the “ABCDE” rule:

"So, A is asymmetry; half of the mole doesn't match the other half, so it's not perfectly symmetrical. B is for border irregularity; so the borders are ragged, irregular - that isn't normal, that's something we want to have checked out. C is for color; so if your mole has many different colors to it, be it tan, black, brown, red - or even some other colors, or some areas that seem to have lost color. D is for diameter; so if it's bigger than the end of a pencil eraser, you'll want to get that checked out. I do want to note that melanomas can be smaller than that, so that doesn't mean you're in the clear if it isn't bigger than a pencil eraser. And then E is for evolving; so a mole is changing over time in size, shape or color."

Thaden says regular skin checks are important because when caught early, skin cancer can be easily treated. If left untreated, it can spread and be deadly.