Skin cancer can lead to disfigurement and even death, but if treated early, it is almost always curable. Coupled with a yearly skin exam by a physician, self examination of your skin every three months is the best way to detect the early warning signs of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma, the main types of skin cancer. Look for a new growth or any skin changes.
Directions: What you’ll need: a bright light: a full-length mirror; a hand mirror; two chairs or stools; a blow dryer.
Examine head and face, using one or both mirrors. Use blow-dryer to inspect scalp.
Check hands, including nails. In full-length mirror, examine elbows, arms, underarms.
Focus on neck, chest, and torso. Women: Check under breasts.
With back to mirror, use hand mirror to inspect back of neck, shoulders, upper arms, back, buttocks, legs.
Sitting down, check legs and feet, including soles, heels, and nails. Use a hand mirror to examine the genitals.
Malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is especially hard to stop once it has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. But it can be readily treated in its earliest stages and this is the key to longevity and wellness.
THE ABCD’S OF MELANOMA Most people have a number of brownish spots on their skin – freckles, birthmarks, moles. Almost all such spots are normal, but some may be skin cancers. Key warnings signs of melanoma are shown below. Be alert to irregularities in shape, edges, color, and size, the ABCD’s of melanoma: Asymmetry, Border irregularity. Color variability and Diameter larger than a pencil eraser.
A. Asymmetry Most early melanomas are asymmetrical: a line through the middle would not create matching halves. Common moles are round and symmetrical.
B. Border The borders of early melanoma are often uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges. Common moles have smoother, more even borders.
C. Color Common moles usually are a single shade of brown. Varied shades of brown, tan, or black are often the first sign of melanoma. As melanomas progress, the colors red, white, and blue may appear.
D. Diameter Early melanomas trend to row larger than common moles – generally to at least the size of a pencil eraser (about 6mm, or 1?4”, in diameter). If you detect any of these warning signs, see a physician promptly.
Self examination – DO it. It could save your life.