More than three million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year – it’s the most common form of cancer in this country. Wearing sunscreen every day is one important step you can take to protect your skin from the dangers of the sun’s harsh rays.
Another important step is to conduct regular self-exams of your skin. They can truly mean the difference between life and death, because early detection is paramount to keeping you healthy from head to toe.
This Valentine’s Day, add some extra sweetness to the chocolate and flowers – give the gift of health by conducting a skin check on your loved one and on yourself.
How Can I Check for Skin Cancer?
The American Cancer Society advocates that everyone should get a regular yearly skin exam by a doctor, preferably by a dermatologist. These exams are especially vital for those with a personal history (or family history) of skin cancer, and those with reduced immunity because of other health conditions or medications.
A lot can transpire in the course of a year, so it’s important to conduct monthly skin checks at home. Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to start doing just that.
1. Look for Changes on the Skin
Be on the lookout for any unusual changes in your and your partner’s moles, freckles, and other spots on the skin. Make a note of any suspicious marks, as this will be helpful to your dermatologist during your next appointment.
2. Use Everyday Tools to Check Thoroughly
It’s a good idea to use bright lighting, full-length and hand mirrors, a chair, a pencil or pen, and a blow dryer – which is highly effective for checking scalp areas hidden by one’s hair. Check from head to toe, starting with the face and scalp. Be sure to carefully examine the nose, mouth, lips, and ears, all of which are susceptible to melanomas – which are the deadliest form of skin cancer.
3. Check Areas You Do and Don’t See
Continue by thoroughly inspecting the hands, including both front and back. If you’re conducting your own self-check, break out the full-length mirror and small hand mirrors, which will help you to view your arms and hidden areas of the underarms.
The combination of hand and full-length mirrors will make inspecting the back, shoulders, buttocks, and legs a bit easier. Utilize the chair and mirror to examine the genitals, as well as other concealed regions.
4. Follow the ABCDE Method
Dermatologists follow a general ABCDE rule when it comes to skin checks. They look for any of the following changes or irregularities in moles and other skin features:
- Border abnormalities
- Color that is inconsistent
- Diameter over 6 mm
- Evolving color, size, or shape of the spot
…and it’s wise for you to do the same in your self-exams or when examining your loved one’s skin.
You’ll want to examine whether one side of a mole matches the other (irregular shapes and borders can be a sign of melanoma). Inspect whether the color of a mole stays the same, or if there are any patchy or rough areas.
If a skin mark has grown or changed, it is worth noting and telling your dermatologist at your next appointment. Remember: Skin checks aren’t solely for identifying cancer, but also for checking for skin infections (both bacterial and fungal), growths, cysts, lumps, and skin tags.
Dermatologists in Colorado Springs and Pueblo
Melanomas and other types of skin cancer can hide where you least expect them to be – and they don’t only show up in parts of the skin that are exposed to the sun. Keep up with regular dermatology checkups; a trained professional will carefully check between the toes, inside and behind the ears, under the fingernails, and other areas.
Start your journey toward skin health by scheduling an appointment with Vanguard Skin Specialists. Our team of dermatologists and plastic surgeons prioritizes the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer, and we conduct total body scans that help to ensure early detection.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call us today at (719) 355-1585 or fill out our appointment request form now. We look forward to helping you stay healthy so you can enjoy many years of amazing moments.