Skin cancer has the advantage of being the only cancer that can be seen on the surface of the skin. By performing a skin self-exam, you can detect early the warning signs of skin cancer and increase your chances of a good outcome with early treatment. Adults should regularly examine their skin once a month looking for abnormal skin growths and changes.
Although basal cell carcinomas usually appear on sun damaged, over-exposed areas of the skin, skin cancer can appear anywhere on the body. In a self –exam it is important to check the all over the scalp, soles of the feet, the palms of the hands, and even beneath finger and toenails.
The American Academy of Dermatology has published a Body Mole Map on their website at http://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/understanding-skin-cancer/how-do-i-check-my-skin. It walks you through how to do a skin exam, the ABCDE’s of evaluating moles, and how to map and record your findings.
To begin it is helpful to have a full length mirror, a handheld mirror, plenty of light, and the Body Mole Map or similar. Some things to look for are:
• Moles that are different from the rest, itches, bleeds, or is changing in any way — even if the mole is smaller than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser)
• Sores that never fully heal
• Translucent growths with rolled edges
• Brown or black streaks underneath a nail
• Clusters of slow-growing, shiny pink or red lesions
• Waxy-feeling scars
• Flat or slightly depressed lesions that feel hard to the touch
If you find a suspicious lesion, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer has a high cure rate when detected early.