|Skin check: A step-by-step guide to skin self-exam|
Help prevent skin cancer
In the good old days, women carried parasols and men never left home without a hat. It’s too bad those good ol’ fashions have gone out of style: These days, ozone depletion means the sun’s UV rays can do more damage than ever. Yet taking these simple protective measures can prevent up to 80 percent of skin cancers.
- Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s damaging rays are strongest.
- Rain or shine, always wear sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Apply 20 minutes before going outside to allow your skin to absorb the cream.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and clothes that completely cover you, including a long-sleeved shirt and a long skirt or pants.
- Sport sunglasses that offer UV protection.
You may picture a skin-cancer candidate as blond, blue-eyed and deeply tanned. But the truth is, everyone is at risk for the disease. The most common form of cancer, it strikes an estimated 1 million Americans each year and probably accounts for half of all newly diagnosed cancers.
However, by performing a monthly skin self-exam, you can catch potentially cancerous skin conditions when they are still highly curable.
What you’ll need
- a bright light
- a full-length mirror
- a hand mirror
- a chair
- a blow-dryer
What to look for
If you notice any of these skin changes, see your physician immediately. He or she can determine if the condition needs further medical attention:
- any new growths, including sores, lesions, nodules and pearly, waxy, colored or suspicious bumps that may or may not cause pain
- a change in a spot or in skin color, itching, scaling, bleeding, pain or tenderness
To identify potential malignancies in moles, follow this “ABCDE” checklist:
- Asymmetry. One half doesn’t match the other in shape.
- Border. The mole isn’t round, but irregular—with ragged, notched or blurred edges.
- Color. The mole is not a normal, uniform brown but is instead a varying shade (or shades) of tan, brown, black, red, blue, blue-black or white.
- Diameter. The mole is about the size of a pencil eraser—a quarter inch in diameter.
- Evolving. The mole has changed in nature or appearance.
The head-to-toe exam
Use a bright light and check your entire body thoroughly.
- First inspect your face, ears, head and the inside of your mouth using the hand mirror. The blow-dryer will help part your hair for a closer look at your scalp.
- Next, examine your hands (including your fingernails and palms), elbows, arms and underarms. Raise your arms and check your right and left sides.
- Examine your neck, chest and torso. If you’re a woman, check beneath your breasts.
- Use the hand mirror to carefully look at your back, shoulders and the back of your neck.
- In the full-length mirror, focus on your buttocks and the backs of your legs.
- Sit down and examine your genitals.
- Inspect your legs and feet, including your heels, soles, toenails and the area between your toes.
© 2014 Dowden Health Media