How to do a skin cancer self-exam
Detecting skin cancer early is the key to successful treatment.
“Self-examinations and yearly skin checks with dermatologist are very effective ways to monitor for skin cancer and serve as preventive measures,” says Dr. Bruce Glassman, a dermatologist in Alexandria, Va.
You can check your own skin for signs of skin cancer by following the ABCDE rule.
- Asymmetry — Normal moles or freckles are completely symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through a normal spot, you would have two symmetrical halves. In cases of skin cancer, spots will not look the same on both sides.
- Border — A mole or spot with blurry and/or jagged edges.
- Color —A mole that is more than one color is suspicious and needs to be evaluated by a doctor. Normal spots are usually one color. This can include lightening or darkening of the mole.
- Diameter — If a mole is larger than a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch or 6mm), it needs to be examined by a doctor. This is includes areas that do not have any other abnormalities (color, border, asymmetry).
- Evolving – When a mole changes in size, shape or color, or begins to bleed or scab, you need to have it checked by a doctor as soon as possible as these can be warning signs of skin cancer.
According to Dr. Glassman, if you follow the suggestions as to what to look for above, you should be able to prevent most skin cancers from becoming major problems.
“The skin should be self examined regularly for signals for skin cancer,” says Dr. Glassman. “As noted above, any changes should bring you in to the dermatologist. We are here to help. In at-risk patients, we recommend bi-annual and or annual skin exams.”