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Top Tips for Spotting Skin Cancer

by kelly / May, 11 2016 01:30

This week we’re providing practical tips to spot skin cancer in support of Skin Cancer Awareness Month (aka May). So far we've given sun protection advice and resources to prevent skin cancer. Now we're talking about detecting skin cancer.

Why Look? If You Spot It, You Can Stop It

Thankfully if skin cancer is caught early, it is highly treatable. Coupled with regular skin exams by a doctor, self-examination is a good way to ensure that you spot skin cancer sooner rather than later.

What to Look Out For? These Skin Spots

The Skin Cancer Foundation is a great resource. Here are the four things they say to look out for as you examine your skin:

    1. A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that: changes color, increases in size or thickness, changes in texture, is irregular in outline/asymmetrical, appears after age 21, is bigger than 6mm or 1/4", the size of a pencil eraser
    2. A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
    3. A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed
    4. An open sore that does not heal within three weeks

How to Look? Self-Examine Your Skin for Spots

Be aware, skin cancer can develop anywhere so it's best to examine your entire body.

Let's start at the top and work our way down. Two quick notes: A hand mirror will be useful but don't let not having one stop you. If you don't have a hand mirror and for hard to see places definitely ask a friend or loved one for help.

Now the American Academy of Dermatology is another great resource. Since they are an association of dermatologists, I think it's worth listening to what they have to say. Here's their recommendations for examining your skin.

  • Examine body front and back in mirror, then right and left sides, arms raised.
  • Examine back of neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair for a closer look at your scalp.
  • Bend elbows, look carefully at forearms, back of upper arms, and palms.
  • Check back and buttocks with a hand mirror.
  • Finally, look at backs of legs and feet, spaces between toes, and soles.

Prevention is always an awesome first defense against skin cancer (just say yes to sunscreen everyday!) but detection is also very important.

Quick Reference Guide

If that's all too much to remember, here is an easy fact sheet to help you spot skin cancer. It's from the Skin Cancer Foundation so you know it has loads of good info. Feel free to print it out or share it online - I definitely recommend that!

Skin Cancer Infographic Explaining How to Conduct a Skin Cancer Self Exam

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