Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and finding spots that could be cancerous is as simple as looking at your skin.
“Checking your skin for skin cancer only requires 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 only takes 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:
A – Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.
B – Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C – 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.
D – Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm, or about the size of a pencil eraser when they are diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
E – Evolving: A mole or spot on your skin that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.
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.
“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 key for successful treatment, so check your skin regularly and see a board-certified dermatologist if you spot anything suspicious.”
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. This video is part of the Dermatology A to Z: Video Series, which offers relatable videos that demonstrate tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails. A new video in the series will be posted to the Academy’s website and the YouTube channel each month.
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. With a membership of more than 17,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or www.aad.org. Follow the Academy on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology) or Twitter (@AADskin).