Eight Steps for a Self Skin Check

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Jennifer Garner has teamed up with Neutrogena┬« and Self┬« magazine to encourage women to examine their skin once a month. It’s a great campaign — if you find a melanoma, a simple skin check could save your life.

Why is it important for everyone to do self skin exams, even young women?

  • 1 in every 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
  • Melanoma is the most common cancer in 25-29 year-olds.
  • Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in adolescents and young adults, ages 15-29.
  • Melanomas are increasing faster in 15-29 year-old females than in males.
  • Melanoma is highly curable when detected and treated early.

Skin cancer is there for everyone to see — including you. Everyday patients come to me having already found their skin cancer. It only takes a few minutes and a mirror.

For a full body skin check, you will need:

  • A full length mirror
  • A hand mirror
  • A hair dryer
  • A body map such as this one from Self magazine to mark any moles you have. When you repeat your skin exam, compare it to your previous notes. (And guys, if you look like this body, then please see your endocrinologist before your dermatologist — try this body map instead).

Here are eight steps for a complete skin check:

  1. Start with your scalp. Use the hair dryer to blow the hair apart to see your scalp section by section.
  2. Examine your face, especially your nose and lips; basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas favor these areas.
  3. Examine your hands and arms. Start with your fingertips and work up your arms to your trunk. Look at your fingernails as well; brown or black spots or streaks can be melanoma.
  4. Use the full mirror to check your back including the back of your arms and legs.
  5. Examine the front of your neck, chest and abdomen. Women should lift each breast to check underneath.
  6. Use the hand mirror to check the back of your shoulders, arms, underarms, buttocks, and legs.
  7. Sit down to exam the front of your legs.
  8. Check your feet including the bottoms, between the toes, and toenails (like you do your fingernails).

Remember you are looking for a mole that has:

  • Asymmetry
  • Border irregularity
  • Color variation
  • Diameter larger than six millimeters (larger than a pencil eraser)
  • Evolution, or has changed over time

In addition, any spot that bleeds or doesn’t heal over two weeks should be examined by a physician. Post by Jeffrey Benabio, MD

Is it normal for a mole to change during pregnancy?

Are you over-scrubbing your face?

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11 thoughts on “Eight Steps for a Self Skin Check

  1. It is important to keep checking for new or changing moles, particularly if you are at risk. Those that have had a melanoma removed may be cured but they are at high risk for recurrence of new melanomas. If you have a lot of moles it is very hard (impossible really) to be able to tell if new or changing ones are present though.

    DermAlert is an image comparison software program developed through funding from the National Cancer Institute that is inexpensive and lets you use your digital camera in the privacy of your own home to find changing moles over time. Then you can point out the changes to your dermatologist. You can see details and demo at http://www.dermalert.com

  2. With skin cancer on the rise,don’t forget the UV protective clothing! Surfers have used rash guard shirts for years but it’s just recently that the SPF 150+ protection these shirts provide while you’re in the water has been discovered by the rest of the non-surfing, beach going population.

  3. This is slightly off-topic, but something I’ve always been curious about (but too polite to ask).

    Why don’t people get moles removed?

    I’m thinking mainly of facial moles, especially on women. Every once in a while you’ll see an otherwise attractive lady with an unsightly mole on her face and I can’t help wondering why she doesn’t just have it removed. It can’t be that expensive, can it?

    Would it leave a scar? Would it just grow back?
    Is there a reason why it can’t be removed?

    Just curious.

  4. I have has two removed. It is an easy process and only minimal scaring (in my case.) These were on my chest and back so I didn’t have any worries about appearance afterward.

  5. Thanks for the great information. There are some tips that you suggest that I plan to follow up on. Your “eight steps for a complete skin check” was very useful, as something you can do from time to time. I plan to keep in touch with your site. Thx.

  6. Pingback: A New DNA Test For Skin Cancer: Scotch Tape? - Better Health

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