Most dermatologists recommend doing a skin check self-exam every month, especially if you are at high risk for skin cancer. This is important because while Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) tend to be slow-growing, melanoma is very aggressive and can metastasize to other parts of the body quickly. As all three of types of skin cancer can be detrimental to your health, it is always best – and potentially lifesaving- to discover any suspicious spots sooner rather than later.
Think having darker skin excuses you from the self-exam? Think again! The misconception that people of color cannot get skin cancer too often has led to ignored and undiagnosed skin cancers. This is why skin cancer in dark-skinned individuals is usually discovered at late, advanced stages and why the 5-year melanoma survival rate for this group is significantly lower than their Caucasian counterparts.
To do a self-exam, get a mirror (or a spouse) and check every area of your skin, including the often forgotten areas such as the scalp, genital area, nails, and in-between the toes. Why everywhere? While most skin cancers appear in areas with a lot of UV exposure, skin cancers can also appear in unexpected areas, usually due to genetics. Cancers in these areas are often ignored and undiagnosed until advanced stages, so check everywhere. A self-exam may take a while your first few times as you get used to following the guidelines, but with practice may be completed in only about 10 minutes!
For a Guide & Body Mole Map, please reference this free PDF from the American Academy of Dermatology: AAD Body Mole Map
ABCDEs of Melanoma
What Else to Look Out For
The above 5 parameters give a solid foundation for a mole check, but it revolves primarily around melanoma specifically. BCC and SCC can also manifest themselves in slightly differently ways, so please also be on the lookout for:
*Any mole or lesion that is pearly or translucent
*Any mole/lesion that becomes thicker
*Any mole/lesion that appears after age 21
*A spot/ sore that continues to itch, bleed, crust, hurt or scab
*An open sore that does not heal within 3 weeks
When to See a Dermatologist
In general, it is recommended that you visit a dermatologist yearly for a professional whole body exam. If you have previously had skin cancer or are at high risk, your dermatologist may recommend more frequent visits. Your monthly self-checks will help you and your physician to know which spots may require a biopsy because they will help you to become aware of any spots that are changing, bleeding, or meeting any of the above-mentioned criteria.
If you have any suspicious moles or spots of concern, please give us a call at (949) 831-3057 to schedule an appointment with us.
We are located in Aliso Viejo, CA. If you are not in the Orange County area, please call your local dermatologist to have any unusual moles evaluated & diagnosed.
For More Information on Self-Exams and the ABCDEs of Melanoma:
American Academy of Dermatology
*Detect Skin Cancer https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/detect
*What to Look for: ABCDEs of Melanoma https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/detect/what-to-look-for
Skin Cancer Foundation
*Early Detection and Self Exams http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/early-detection
*Melanoma Warning Signs and Images http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma/melanoma-warning-signs-and-images
*Understanding What to look for [Infographic] http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/graphics/warning
Melanoma Research Foundation
*Detection & Screening http://www.melanoma.org/understand-melanoma/diagnosing-melanoma/detection-screening