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How to Check Your Skin for Skin Cancer

How to Check Your Skin for Skin Cancer

Dermatologists urge consumers to do self-exams regularly

October 12th, 2012 by Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs in News

Part of any physical exam should be a check for skin cancer. After all, it's the most common cancer in the U.S.

While it's important to have a doctor look you over dermatologists also recommend self-examinations on a regular basis. They say it's as simple as looking at your skin.

"Checking your skin for skin cancer only requires your eyes and a mirror," said Thomas E. Rohrer, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Chestnut Hill, Mass. "Examining your skin only takes a few minutes, but it could save your life."

Second set of eyes helps

Involving a partner adds another set of eyes, which is especially helpful when checking the back and other hard-to-see areas. What exactly are you looking for? According to the American Academy of Dermatology you should watch for the " ABCDEs of Melanoma."

A - Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.

B - Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.

C - Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown, or black, or with areas of white, red or blue.

D - Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm, or about the size of a pencil eraser when they are diagnosed, but they can be smaller.

E - Evolving: A mole or spot on your skin that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.

To check your own skin, look at the front and back of your body. When examining your own skin, stand in front of a mirror, raise your arms and examine the right and left sides of the body. Then bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, upper underarms and palms.

Next, examine the back of your legs, spaces between your toes and your soles. Examine those hard-to see areas like your back, and the top of your head. Use a mirror to inspect the back of your neck and scalp, parting your hair for a better view.

One in five

"Current estimates show one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, so it's important to be familiar with your skin, especially your moles," Rohrer said. "Catching skin cancer early is key for successful treatment, so check your skin regularly and see a board-certified dermatologist if you spot anything suspicious."

The American Academy of Dermatology has just released a video, posted here on YouTube, that demonstrates self-exam procedures.