Your guide to at-home skin cancer self-examinations

by Heidi Anderson, M.D.

Did you know that every year there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, lung, colon and prostate cancer combined? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people have been treated for skin cancer in the past thirty years than all other types of cancer combined. Nearly one in five Americans will develop skin cancer and the monetary cost is staggering — around $8.1 million is spent every year for treatment.

In addition to taking preventative measures like avoiding the sun during peak hours and using broad-spectrum sunscreen or protective clothing, you should perform routine self-examinations to spot any abnormalities and detect possible skin cancer. Get to know your skin and call your dermatologist if anything looks unusual!

Here are some tips from the American Academy of Dermatology to help you perform an effective evaluation on yourself.

What to look for: The ABCDE rule

  • A is for Asymmetry: One half does not match the other.
  • B is for Border: Edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C is for Color: Color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D is for Diameter: Larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
  • E is for Evolving: Changing in size, shape, or color.

How to check your spots

  1. Stand squarely in front of a mirror and raise both arms. Examine the front, then back, of your upper body.
  2. Bend your elbows and look at your forearms, upper arms and palms.
  3. Examine the back of your legs and feet, spaces between your toes as well as your soles.
  4. Grab a hand-held mirror and check the back of your neck and scalp. Lift your hair if needed.
  5. Use the same mirror to check your buttocks and back.

Your best defense against skin cancer is to avoid the sun and use preventative measures like protective clothing and sunscreen. We would love to help you choose a routine that’s right for your skin. Call us today for a recommendation!

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