Do you know how to perform a skin cancer self-exam? Do you know the answers to important skin cancer FAQs, such as is there really such a thing as needing to practice sun safety while driving? Remembering these tips and facts about skin cancer and self-exams can make a difference in helping you spot skin cancer symptoms early.
As "perfect" as some skin looks, everyone gets spots on their skin. As you age, the number of spots increase. Most of these spots are benign (non-cancerous). However, with multiple spots on your skin, it's not always easy to tell what should be a concern and what shouldn't when it comes to identifying skin cancer symptoms early.
Don’t let lack of knowledge keep you from spotting skin cancer early. Be diligent and proactive when it comes to performing regular skin cancer self-exams, and keep the following tips and facts about skin cancer in mind to help you.
Make Skin Cancer Self-Exams a Priority
Most melanomas (the most dangerous form of skin cancer) occur on the skin where they can readily be seen by an individual or a diligent loved one or caregiver. In fact, many melanomas are first detected by individuals during a self-examination.
Make it a priority to perform regular skin cancer self-exams. When you check your skin regularly, you are more likely to recognize changes in a mole or to identify new spots on your skin that should be monitored as potential signs of skin cancer. Consider asking a loved one to help examine skin that you can't readily see, such as your back.
Act Quickly When You Identify Areas of Concern
Regular self-exams can make a big difference in seeking medical help in time. Skin cancer is almost always detectable in its early stages, when treatment can be most effective. And when found early, melanoma is highly treatable.
Don't let time or excuses get in the way of seeking medical help to assist you in spotting skin cancer symptoms early.
Know When It’s Time To See a Doctor
As diligent as you may be with monitoring your skin, self-exams do not take the place of good medical care. Combine skin cancer self-exams with professional medical examinations of your skin, such as regularly scheduled check-ups with a board-certified dermatologist.
Do not try to diagnose yourself. When you find an area of concern, such as a spot that looks abnormal or a mole that is changing in shape, err on the side of caution. Always show it to your doctor.
What constitutes an area of concern or time to see a dermatologist?
“While performing a skin self-exam, keep in mind that skin cancer can develop anywhere on the skin, not just in areas that are exposed to the sun,” said board-certified dermatologist Ali Hendi, MD, FAAD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington. “If you notice any new spots on your skin, scalp or nails, spots that look different from other spots on your body, or spots that are changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”
Memorize the ABCDEs of Melanoma to Help Spot Skin Cancer
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should check your skin for the ABCDEs of melanoma:
- A is for Asymmetry: One half of the spot does not look like the other half.
- B is for Border: In this case, there is border irregularity. For example, the spot has an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
- C is for Color: The spot has different colors from one area to the next. For example, if one part of the spot is tan, but other parts are brown or black, or if there are areas of white, red, or blue.
- D is for Diameter: Although melanomas can be smaller, be particularly aware of any spots that are greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser at the end of your pencil), as melanomas are generally greater than 6 millimeters.
- E is for Evolving: The spot looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color. As the American Academy of Dermatology states, “Even if you don’t have any other symptoms, see a board-certified dermatologist if you notice one of these signs or notice an existing mole start to evolve or change in any way.
Check Out These Helpful Skin Cancer Resources
The following skin health and skin cancer resources provide additional information on skin cancer and performing skin cancer self-exam checks:
- Download a body mole map from the American Academy of Dermatology
- Review illustrations that show you where and how to check your body during a self-exam
- Follow this step-by-step self-examination
- Download an infographic that helps you know what to look for, including example images of what to look for using the ABCDEs of melanoma
- Find a free SPOTMe® skin cancer screening in your area (note: many are taking place in May and June 2018)
- Learn how to protect your skin from sun damage while you’re in your car (yes, it’s a real thing!)
- Learn about the dangers of tanning