Monday, May 9, 2016

How To Check Yourself For Skin Cancer

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and with skin cancer being the most common form of cancer in the United States, The American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to make sure their skin is “Looking Good in 2016” by protecting it from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and checking it for signs of skin cancer. Did you know that it is estimated that one person dies from melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer --every hour? Did you also know that skin cancer is the most preventable of cancers?

In 2012, the American Academy of Dermatology released the video “Skin Self-Exam: How to Do,” that is an easy to follow video to help you learn what to look for. For our part, Team TME connected with Dr. Thomas E. Rohrer MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Chestnut Hill, Mass., who offers tips and advice to TME readers.

“Checking your skin for skin cancer only requires your eyes and a mirror. Involving a partner adds another set of eyes, which is especially helpful when checking the back and other hard-to-see areas,” said Dr. Rohrer. “Examining your skin only takes a few minutes, but it could save your life.”

When examining the skin, look for the ABCDEs of Melanoma and make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist if any moles exhibit these signs:

A - Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.
B - Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C - Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown, or black, or with areas of white, red or blue.
D - Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm, or about the size of a pencil eraser when they are diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
E - Evolving: A mole or spot on your skin that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.

To check your skin, look at the front and back of your body. When examining your own skin, stand in front of a mirror. Examine your skin by following these steps:

  • Raise the arms and examine the right and left sides of the body.
  • Then bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, upper underarms and palms.
  • Next, examine the back of your legs, spaces between your toes and your soles.
  • Then, examine those hard-to see areas like your back, buttocks and the top of your head. Use a mirror to inspect the back of your neck and scalp, parting your hair for a better view.

“Current estimates show one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, so it’s important to be familiar with your skin, especially your moles,” said Dr. Rohrer. “Catching skin cancer early is key for successful treatment, so check your skin regularly and see a board-certified dermatologist if you spot anything suspicious.”

The American Academy of Dermatology’s “Body Mole Map” helps people keep a record of moles that are growing, bleeding, itching or changing. The "Body Mole Map" is a resource of the Academy’s SPOT Skin Cancer public awareness initiative. For more information contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or AAD online.

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