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Conducting Your Self Exam

The best time to check yourself for skin cancer is after a bath or shower. If you do it the same day every month, you'll develop a habit that could save your life.

  • Stand in front of a full-length mirror. Have a handheld mirror, too, so you can see your back. Pay special attention to the areas where you get the most sun, but remember that melanoma can appear anywhere, even on the soles of your feet or other areas that have never seen the sun.
  • Start at the top of your head. Part your hair to check your scalp, and use the hand mirror to look at the back of your neck and ears.
  • Slowly work your way all the way down your front, to the tips of your toes.
  • Then use the mirrors to look at your back, from neck to toes. Remember to check your buttocks, the backs of your knees, and the soles of your feet.
  • Look carefully down the right side of your body, then the left side. Bend your elbows to examine your forearms, underarms, and palms.

Recognizing Skin Cancer

If a mole looks just like it has for the last 20 years, it's probably benign. The most important thing to look for is a change: a new spot, a mole that is growing or changing color, a sore that doesn't heal.

The ABCD's of melanoma, the form of skin cancer that is most likely to metastasize, or spread all over your body:

  • Asymmetry – a spot that's irregular, instead of being round.
  • Border – an uneven border, or a ragged edge.
  • Color – uneven color, with different shades of black and brown.
  • Diameter – larger than a pencil eraser.

A

 

B

 

C

 

D

 

 

 

Other forms of skin cancer can also take different appearances:

  • A red, scaly patch (large or small) that won't clear up or keeps coming back.
  • A skin-colored bump that grows slowly.
  • A sore that won't heal.
  • A "growing scar" – a firm, recessed spot, either skin-colored or lighter.

Melanomas and non-melanoma cancers can be either raised or flat.

The most important thing is to be familiar with your own skin and recognize changes when they occur. If you see any new, growing, or odd-looking moles, contact us right away for an appointment. People with a lot of moles or a history of skin cancer may want to take advantage of our digital mole mapping.

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