According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States but can be treated when caught early. It is very important to be vigilant about any changes or abnormalities on your skin.
Every year, millions of people are diagnosed with skin cancer. While some cases are relatively minor and can be treated easily, others can be deadly. That’s why it’s important to take steps to protect yourself from this disease.
But what is the best way to check if you have early signs of skin cancer? In this article, we will cover the importance of doing a regular skin self-examination, how to do it, and what to do if you suspect you have something suspicious on your skin.
Importance Of Self Skin Exam
The reality is that many people do not conduct routine self-skin exams and are often unaware that they need to look for suspicious or changing moles or lesions on their skin.
In fact, a survey by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) found that only one in five Americans look at their skin once a month. Additionally, more than 80 percent of melanomas (a serious type of skin cancer) develop from non-melanoma skin cancer and nearly half appear on a sun-exposed area like the face, scalp, ears, lips, neck, hands, and legs.
That is why it is important for everyone to conduct routine self-skin exams, especially if you are at a higher risk of skin cancer.
Who Should Do It
Skin cancer does not discriminate. It can affect any race, age group, or gender. Doing a skin self-check only takes a few minutes, and everyone should do it, at least once a month.
People with high risk of getting skin cancer should perform a skin check more often. These people are:
- People who had a previous case of skin cancer
- People with a family history of skin cancer
- People who are exposed to the sun or UV rays more often
- People who had frequent sunburn as a child
How to Do a Skin Self-Exam
There are a few different ways to do a self-exam. One is to look for any new lesions or moles on your skin. You should also check for any changes in the size, shape, or color of existing lesions or moles. Another thing to watch out for is skin that’s becoming increasingly dry, oily, or inflamed.
If possible, try using a mirror to check the areas that are hard to see such as the back of the neck, the skin underneath the breast, back, thighs, and scalp. Be sure to also look thoroughly at your face, hands, arms, torso, legs... aka EVERYWHERE!
What to Do When You Find Something Suspicious
If you do find any abnormalities, don’t panic! Make sure to book an appointment to see your board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible. They will be able to determine if the changes are cause for concern and recommend the best course of action.
Check out our blog on how to find the right dermatologist here.
Pro Tips to Prevent Skin Cancer
1. Stay in the shade.
When possible, stay in the shade. The sun’s UV rays can be harmful to your skin and can increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
2. Wear sunscreen
Make sure to wear sunscreen whenever you’re exposed to the sun. Choose sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and make sure to reapply it every two hours.
3. Avoid tanning beds
Tanning beds are dangerous and can increase your risk of skin cancer. Instead, try using a self-tanning lotion or spray.
4. Check your skin regularly.
Skin cancer is preventable on some level if you're responsible enough to check your body on a regular basis. Doing a regular self-exam will help you be aware of early signs of skin cancer. For more information about self-skin exams or skin cancer prevention, visit the resources below.