Squawk Radio

Friday, September 22, 2006

Lisa Talks "Melanoma"

Dear Friends,

Summer may be over, but you wouldn’t know it here in Texas--the sun is still blazing like it’s mid-July. There’s not much you can do to avoid the sun where I live, so the only recourse is to wear hats and apply sunscreen to every visible inch of your body. Which, I’ll confess, I’m not always good about doing. But from now on I’m going to be far more aware of the hazards of sun exposure, because we recently had a scare involving my mother and a strange black line on her fingernail.

The line looks exactly like something that was drawn on with a pencil, thin and dark, running from the base of the nail to the tip. And even though it was unusual and a little worrisome, my mother didn’t tell anyone about it for months, just covered it up with nail polish. I think many women would have done the same--we’re all too busy, and by the time you go to the doctor, wait in the office, and finally get to see the doctor, half a day is gone.

Finally, however, my mother went for a manicure and the cosmetician told her that a black line on your fingernail is potentially a dangerous sign. There’s a very aggressive form of melanoma that shows up as a line or dark spot on a fingernail or toenail . . . most often in black or hispanic women (my family is part Mexican) . . . and it can spread very quickly to the lymph nodes. Furthermore, people have a tendency to ignore this telltale sign for far too long.

There are other reasons a black line can show up on your finger nail--it can be a sign of vitamin deficiency, a tiny burst blood vessel, or a harmless mole that has appeared in the nailbed. Fortunately for my mother and our family, the doctor thinks her finger is just fine, although they’re keeping an eye on it just to be safe.

So now my concern is for you, dear friends--if you have any kind of dark spot or line on any of your fingernails or toenails, PLEASE go have it checked out. And keep an eye on your skin in general. If you have any new moles or dark spots on your skin, check them out with the ABCD rule in mind :

A : Asymmetry. Instead of being perfectly circular, the mole is a strange shape
B : Border. The edges of the mole are ragged-looking or irregular
C : Color. The mole is changing color, either darkening or lightening, or has more than one color
D : Diameter is more than 6mm, or bigger around than a pencil eraser.

From what I’ve read, it doesn’t matter if the mole is flat or raised. But you should pay attention if it feels itchy or painful, and if it bleeds and never seems to heal completely.

I know it’s difficult for all of us, with our overpacked schedules, to take time out and take care of our bodies. But please pay attention to your skin, because you are important to your own friends and family, and to the Squawkers as well! We want you to be healthy, safe and happy.

Do you use sunscreen regularly? . . . What kind do you like the best, in terms of scent, feel and effectiveness? Do you have any good suggestions about makeup foundation with sunblock in it? Any other skin care advice you’d like to share?
Lisa Kleypas, 8:12 AM