In recognition of the month of May as National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Price Skin Care Clinic is running a series of blog posts on the topic this month. This post features the importance of performing regular skin self-examinations and having annual exams by a skin doctor.
Consider these alarming statistics:
* One in five Americans are likely to develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
* An estimated that 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
* Research estimates that nonmelanoma skin cancer affects more than 3 million Americans a year and melanoma rates have doubled from 1982 to 2011 and continue to increase.
“Given these statistics, everyone should take skin cancer seriously,” says Richard Price, M.D. and director of Price Skin Care Clinic in Ridgeland, Mississippi. “Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. So, it’s important to perform monthly self-exams of your skin, to see a skin doctor annually for a skin cancer screening and to follow guidelines for keeping your skin healthy and cancer free.”
What Is a Skin Cancer Screening?
A skin cancer screening is a visual exam of the skin that can be performed by yourself or by a health care provider. The purpose of the screening is to check for moles, birthmarks or other marks that are unusual in color, size, shape or texture.
Who Should Have a Skin Cancer Screening?
To be safe, skin exams are recommended for everyone. But those with the following risk factors should talk to your health provider about whether you should regularly screen yourself, get screened at a provider’s office, or do both.
Those risk factors include:
* Light skin tone
* Blond or red hair
* Light colored eyes (blue or green)
* Skin that burns and/or freckles easily
* History of sunburns
* Family and/or personal history of skin cancer
* Frequent exposure to the sun through work or leisure activities
* Large number of moles
How To Perform a Self-Exam
A self-exam screening should be performed in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. A hand mirror is recommended for hard-to-see areas.
The self-exam should include:
* Examining your face, neck, and stomach.
* Under their breasts (women)
* Raise arms and look at your left and right sides.
* Front and back of your forearms.
* Hands, including between your fingers and under your fingernails.
* Front, back, and sides of your legs.
* Feet from the top to the soles and between the toes.
* Use the hand-held mirror to check your back, buttocks, and genitals.
* Using a comb or hair dryer to move hair aside, check your scalp.
What Should You Look for in a Self-Exam?
If you find any of the following during a self-exam, you should see a skin doctor for a professional exam:
* A change in an existing mole or spot
* A mole or other skin mark that oozes, bleeds, or becomes crusty
* A mole that is painful to the touch
* A sore that doesn’t heal within two weeks
* Shiny pink, red, pearly white, or translucent bump
* A mole or sore with irregular borders, that may bleed easily
If you have moles, you should be extra vigilant to watch for changes. To help remember watch to look for, think, think through the ‘ABCDE’ format:
* Asymmetry: The mole has an odd shape, with half of it not matching the other half.
* Border: The border of the mole is ragged or irregular.
* Color: The color of the mole is uneven.
* Diameter: The mole is bigger than the size of a pea or a pencil eraser.
* Evolving: The mole has changed in size, shape, or color.
If you see anything out of the ordinary or any change in a mole’s appearance, see a skin doctor as soon as possible.
What If the Doctor Finds Something Suspicious?
If the doctor finds something suspicious on your skin that looks like it might be a sign of cancer, he or she will likely order a skin biopsy to make a diagnosis. This procedure involves removing a sample of the skin and testing for cancer cells. If the diagnosis comes back positive, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan.
“The reason self-exams and annual exams by a trained skin doctor are so important is that finding and treating cancer early may help prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the body,” says Dr. Price. “Therefore, a regular exam routine is your greatest ally in the prevention of skin cancer.”