This May during Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers is here to give you tips and resources on how to identify skin cancer and when to seek treatment. Earlier this month, we posted a blog about what skin cancer is and how you can recognize the signs. Today, we want to provide you with helpful tips on how to perform a skin self-exam to check for new or unusual skin spots. Keep reading to learn more.
Why Are Skin Exams Important?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and research suggests that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. Approximately 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
Anyone can develop skin cancer, regardless of skin color. The most common cause of cancerous changes is exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun and artificial tanning beds. The sun’s ultraviolet rays damage the DNA in your skin cells and lead to cell mutation and formation of malignant tumors.
The positive news is that with early identification and diagnosis, skin cancer is highly treatable. If cancerous changes are detected in the early stages, treatment has a much higher likelihood of being effective. This is the primary reason why performing regular skin checks on yourself is an important proactive step you can take to protect your skin and prevent cancerous growths from worsening.
Many dermatologists recommend you examine your skin from top to bottom once a month. Regular examinations are even more crucial if you are at high risk due to a compromised immune system, a personal history of skin cancer or a family history of skin cancer.
Tips for Performing a Self-Exam
You know the normal patterns of your moles, freckles, birthmarks and other skin blemishes best, which makes you the best person to detect new or unusual changes when they occur. When performing a skin self-exam, take note of new moles, spots, sores, growths or lesions. Keep track of spots that change in size or color, as well as spots that bleed, itch, ooze and don’t heal after a few weeks. If you notice anything new or unusual during an exam, contact your dermatologist and make an appointment to have it checked out by a professional.
Here are some tips you can follow when examining yourself:
- Perform the self-exam in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Have a few hand mirrors nearby to help you reach hard-to-see places.
- Check everywhere, even areas of your skin that don’t receive much sun exposure. Start by using the full-length mirror to examine your skin from the front, back and along each side of your body with your arms raised. Check your face, lips and the front of your ears. Check the forearm and underarm of each arm, as well as the shins and calves of each leg. If you’re a woman, lift each breast to examine the undersides.
- Use hand mirrors to view hard-to-see places like the back of the neck, behind the ears, the backs of the thighs, the knee creases, the buttocks and the genital region. Use a hand mirror combined with a blow dryer or comb to examine your scalp.
- Don’t forget the small places. Check under fingernails and toenails, between fingers and toes, the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
- For extremely hard-to-see places – like your back and scalp – ask a partner for help examining these areas.
Become familiar with what’s normal and what’s not for your skin – be the biggest advocate for your own health if you notice a new or unusual change.
Learn More About How to Protect Your Skin
Read some of our other resources to learn how you can be safe in the sun and protect your skin health.
Make an Appointment With Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers
Along with completing your own skin self-exams at home, you should make an appointment with your dermatologist for a skin check once a year. FLDSCC currently has 12 convenient locations across the state of Florida – find the office location closest to you and call us to book your appointment!