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Skin Cancer: Ugly Ducklings Aren’t Just in Fairy Tales

Most people are familiar with the story of the ugly duckling, the funny looking little barnyard bird that grew into a swan. It turns out there’s also a real world ugly duckling that, unlike the one in the fairy tale, never turns into something beautiful. This ugly duckling is that mole on your body that looks different than the others. It could also be melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck

Incidences of skin cancer are on the rise. More than three million people across the United States and Canada are diagnosed every year. Melanoma is particularly lethal. Between the two countries, melanoma will kill more than 10,000 people in 2016.

“LIUNA members and others who spend their workdays outside face daily exposure to the sun that can increase risk for skin cancer,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Reapplying sunscreen throughout the work shift is essential. So is checking your skin for moles and spots that are new or look different.”

It’s important to do skin checks thoroughly and at least once a month. By doing self-checks, you become familiar with what is normal for your skin. Many people don’t understand that something very small on their skin can be deadly if it’s not treated promptly. Your skin should also be examined by a dermatologist once a year, or more frequently if you are considered to be at high risk for skin cancer.

What does a normal mole look like?

A normal mole is usually:

  • An evenly colored brown, tan or black spot on your skin
  • Flat or raised and round or oval
  • Usually no wider than a pencil eraser

If most of your moles fall into the categories above, but one is different than the rest, that’s an ugly duckling. If you see this or any other changes on your skin, see a dermatologist. While it is typical for moles to develop throughout childhood and early adulthood, any mole that appears after age 35 should be examined by a dermatologist.

Understanding the ABCDE Rule

The ABCDE rule is another way to check your skin for signs of skin cancer. Make an appointment to see your dermatologist immediately if you notice any moles or spots on your skin that have any of these features:

  • A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
  • C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes patches of pink, red, white or blue.
  • D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than a pencil eraser, although some melanomas can be smaller.
  • E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape or color.

Skin cancer doesn’t always follow the ABCDEs. For other warning signs, read “It Might not Be Melanoma, but It’s Still Serious” from our November 2015 issue.

The LHSFNA’s Sun Sense Plus program can help Laborers learn how to protect themselves against skin cancer and heat stress. Sun Sense Plus 2016 educational materials and products can be ordered by visiting the Fund’s Sun Sense Plus 2016 page or by calling the Fund’s Health Promotion Division at 202-628-5465.

New for 2016 is the Fund’s Skin Cancer Control Toolbox Talk, which details the risk factors for skin cancer as well as prevention and early detection methods. This and other Fund materials are available in English and Spanish through the online Publications Catalogue at

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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