Unless you have a cut, you probably don’t check your skin too closely on a regular basis except for a few areas like your face and hands. Our board-certified dermatologists at Seacoast Dermatology want you to know that performing regular skin checks should be a part of your hygiene routine.
Skin cancer is on the rise. Fun in the sun is fine, but remember that too much exposure from the sun’s rays is carcinogenic.
About 20% of Americans develop skin cancer at some point during their lives. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Annually, it’s diagnosed more frequently than all other cancers combined.
New melanoma cases increased by almost 30% in the last decade. If caught early, melanoma can be excised from your skin. If it’s not diagnosed until a late stage, it can be deadly. Unless you do regular self-checks, you could miss a growing skin cancer. And some rare cancers can look like other skin conditions.
What to look for when doing a skin check
Skin cancers vary greatly in appearance. Because the sun is such a large factor in skin cancers, this type of cancer is more common on exposed areas of your body: your face, hands, head, neck, and arms.
But skin cancers can develop where the sun doesn’t shine; it can even occur between your toes and on the soles of your feet.
Here are some key skin changes to look for when you do a self-check:
- A mole or other spot on the skin that wasn’t there previously
- A mole that has changed in shape, size, or color
- A spot that doesn’t heal in a normal amount of time
- A rough patch of skin that may be flaky, scaly, or bleed
- A bump that looks like a wart
- A spot on your skin that’s new or changing in size, shape, or color
Use the alphabet to help spot problems
Any change in a mole could be a sign of cancer, particularly melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. An easy way to remember the warning signs is to check for the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma:
- Asymmetrical — Look for an atypical shape
- Border — Look for scalloped and irregular borders
- Color — Look for moles with more than one color
- Diameter — Look for moles that grow to more than a quarter inch
- Evolving — Look for moles that have changed in size or shape or that itch or bleed
How often to do a skin self-check
At Seacoast Dermatology, we recommend that you do a skin check each month. It’s important to have a baseline of your pattern of freckles and moles so you can recognize any changes that occur.
Enlist a family member or close friend to help you. Sit in front of a large mirror and have a hand- held mirror handy. Examine your body from head to toe. Check your scalp, lift up the hair, and don’t forget to check behind your ears.
Check your hands, under your arms, and your neck, back, and torso. Other areas to check are under your breasts, your genital area, buttocks, thighs, the backs of your legs, between your toes, and the front and soles of your feet.
Jamaican musician Bob Marley died at age 36 from a rare form of melanoma that developed under his toenail. He thought it was a sports injury and didn’t get treatment early enough.
Call us Seacoast Dermatology today for an appointment at one of our convenient offices for all of your skin care concerns. We’re located in Portsmouth, Exeter, and Dover, New Hampshire.