According to The American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Your chances of being diagnosed with skin cancer is even higher if you are male, Caucasian, or over the age of sixty-five–though skin cancer can strike regardless of age, gender, or race.
Now that we’ve got all that bad news out of the way, it’s time for some very good news: regular, comprehensive self-examinations can save your life. When melanoma, (the deadliest form of skin cancer), is caught early, the survival rate is an impressive 98%. The outlook is even brighter for basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common forms of skin cancer.
The fact that skin cancer is so easily treatable makes deaths and disfigurations due to the disease even more tragic. You owe it to yourself to perform regular self-examinations.
The process of conducting a self-examination is straightforward–and, once you have gotten used to it, it should only take about ten minutes. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends performing a full body self-examination once per month–but, if you have a history of skin cancer or other prominent risk factors, your dermatologist may recommend a different schedule.
With the help of a hand mirror, a full-length wall mirror, and a stool, carefully examine every inch of your skin. You should also use a comb or a hair drier to pull your hair away from your scalp in order to examine the top of your head. As you examine your skin, use a body map (which you can download free of charge from the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website) in order to record the location, shape, size, and color of every freckle, mole, birthmark, bump, sore, scab, or scaly patch. This will allow you to track any significant changes, and to be alert for any potential warning signs of skin cancer.
The most common warning signs include: an unexplained sore that does not heal, pigment that “leaks” from the border of a mole into the surrounding skin, redness that spreads out in a similar fashion, marks that are painful or itchy, marks that change appearance between exams, and wart-like growths. Keep in mind the ABCDE’s of irregular moles as well: any mole that is Asymmetrical, has irregular Borders, strange or irregular Colors, a Diameter larger than a pencil’s eraser, or Evolves quickly could be a threat.
If you have any doubts about what you have found in a self-examination, the safest course of action is to visit your dermatologist. Schedule an appointment with a BHSkin provider online here!