A self-exam that could save your life
With the warm rays of the summer sun giving way to the winter season, attention to our skin also may start to wane. However, because skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, any season is a good time to check your skin, and finding spots that could be cancerous is as simple as looking in a mirror. Now a new video, "Skin Self-Exam: How to Do," from the American Academy of Dermatology demonstrates how to check your skin and what to look for.
Skin Self-Exam: How to Do
"Checking your skin for skin cancer requires only your eyes and a mirror. Involving a partner adds another set of eyes, which is especially helpful when checking the back and other hard-to-see areas," said Thomas E. Rohrer, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Chestnut Hill, Mass. "Examining your skin takes only a few minutes, but it could save your life."
When examining the skin, look for the ABCDEs of Melanoma and make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist if any moles exhibit these signs:
To check your skin, look at the front and back of your body. When examining your own skin, stand in front of a mirror. Examine your skin by following these steps:
- Asymmetry: One-half of the spot is unlike the other half.
- Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
- Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown, or black, or with areas of white, red, or blue.
- Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm or about the size of a pencil eraser when they are diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
- Evolving: A mole or spot on your skin that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.
"Current estimates show one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, so it's important to be familiar with your skin, especially your moles," said Dr. Rohrer. "Catching skin cancer early is the key for successful treatment, so check your skin regularly and see a board-certified dermatologist if you spot anything suspicious."
- Raise the arms and examine the right and left sides of the body.
Then bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, upper underarms, and palms.
- Next, examine the back of your legs, spaces between your toes and your soles.
- Then, examine those hard-to see areas like your back, buttocks and the top of your head. Use a mirror to inspect the back of your neck and scalp, parting your hair for a better view.
The American Academy of Dermatology's Body Mole Map helps people keep a record of moles that are growing, bleeding, itching, or changing. The Body Mole Map is a resource of the Academy's SPOT Skin Cancer® public awareness initiative. Visitors to the program's website www.SpotSkinCancer.org – also can find stories of those affected by skin cancer and free downloadable materials to educate others in their community.
The "Skin Self-Exam: How to Do" video is posted to the Academy's website and YouTube channel.
Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or www.aad.org.
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