Dermatology Services

Expert Reminds Utahns of Skin Cancer Risks

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah has the highest rate of melanoma in the nation. Experts warn residents to be aware of the risks for skin cancer as warmer months approach and more people spend time in the sun.

Dr. Glen Bowen with the Huntsman Cancer Institute says Utah's rate of skin cancer is high partly because of the state's high altitude and southern latitude. It also has a high percentage of Caucasians that is less adapted to sun exposure.

The majority of skin cancer is caused by sun exposure. "About one person dies every hour in the U.S. of skin cancer, and the vast majority of these are preventable," Bowen said.

He says the best way to recognize skin cancer is to look for "an ugly-duckling type mole" that doesn't look like other moles you have, or a sore on the skin that doesn't heal after four weeks.

Some warning signs of melanoma can be easy to remember with the letters A-B-C-D-E.

A - Asymmetry
A mole should not be asymmetric, meaning half of the mole doesn't look like the other.

"If you drew a line down the center of a mole and one half isn't a mirror image of the other, that's asymmetrical," Bowen explained.

B- Border
The mole's border should not be irregular, scalloped or notched.

"A mole should look like a basketball or a baseball, but it shouldn't look like a baseball mitt," Bowen said.

C- Color
The color of a mole should not be varied, mottled or extra dark.

D- Diameter
A mole should not be bigger than 6 millimeters.

E- Evolution
A mole should not increase or decrease in size and change.

Risk factors for melanoma include:

  • Personal or family history of melanoma
  • Light skin that burns or blisters easily
  • Blue, green or gray eyes
  • Excessive sun exposure during childhood/ blistering and sunburns before age 18
  • One or more atypical moles
Staying safe in the sun
  • Check your skin 3-4 times a year for changes
  • Wear an SPF 30 sunscreen that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide
  • Avoid the sun or cover up between 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

For information on screenings, call the Huntsman Cancer Learning Center at 888-424-2100.

View the complete KSL News interview with Dr. Glen Bowen