If You Can Spot It, You Can Stop It: Check Your Spots!
- Check your skin for changes in pigmentation and moles that the color or diameter may have changed over time.
- Check areas that have had more exposure to sunlight, especially around ears, lips, shoulders and nose.
- Check your skin for crusty, scaly patches with hard calloused surfaces.
- Check for sores that won't heal or look translucent and have gradually grown.
Coupled with a yearly skin exam by a doctor, self-examination of your skin once a month is the best way to detect the early warning signs of skin cancer. Look for a new growth or any skin change.
How to Examine Your Skin
Get familiar with your skin and your own pattern of moles, freckles, blemishes, and birthmarks. Check your skin monthly, and be alert to changes in the number, size, shape, or color of spots on your skin or sores that do not heal.
The best time to do this simple exam is after a bath or shower. Use a full-length and a hand mirror so you can check your skin from head to toe, noting anything new.
Face the mirror
- Check your face, ears, neck, chest, and belly.
- Check both sides of your arms and the tops and palms of your hands.
- Check the front of your thighs, shins, tops of your feet, and in between your toes.
- Now look at the bottom of your feet, your calves, and the backs of your thighs - first one leg, then the other. (You will need a hand mirror for the backs of your thighs.)
Use the hand mirror to check the buttocks, lower back, upper back, and the back of the neck. (It may be helpful to look at your back in a wall mirror by using a hand mirror.)
If you do the exam regularly, you will know what is normal for you and can feel confident. Remember the warning signs and check with your health care professional or dermatologist if you find something.
The ABCD Rule for Early Detection of Melanoma
Almost everyone has moles. The vast majority of moles are perfectly harmless. A change in a mole's appearance is a sign that you should see your doctor. Here's the simple ABCD rule to help you remember the important signs of melanoma and other skin cancers:
- 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, but may have differing shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white, or blue.
- D is for DIAMETER: The area is larger than 6 millimeters (about ¼ inch -- the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing larger.
Important Signs of Melanoma
Other important signs of melanoma include changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or the appearance of a new spot. Some melanomas do not fit the ABCD rule described above, so it is particularly important for you to be aware of changes in skin lesions or a new skin lesion.
Other warning signs are:
- A sore that does not heal
- A new growth
- Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
- Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
- Change in sensation - itchiness, tenderness, or pain
- Change in the surface of a mole - scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a bump or nodule