Charleston Dermatology Blog

Skin Check: Do You Know How to Do a Self-Exam?

  • skin-conditions
  • skincare-tips

Approximately 9,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. That’s upwards of 3 million skin cancer diagnoses each year in this country alone.

As skin cancer is so prevalent and can be developed by people of any skin tone, it’s important to be diligent about checking your skin. The sooner you notice any changes, the sooner you can have them examined by your dermatologist.

Identifying and treating skin cancer early on can make a significant difference in the outcome. Not only can it prevent further damage to your skin but it can save your life, especially in the case of more dangerous skin cancers such as melanoma.

The question is, then, how can you perform a self-check skin exam?

How to Do a Skin Self-Exam

When doing a self-exam, it’s important to do so systematically so that you don’t overlook any area of your body.

  1. Starting with a full-length mirror, examine the front and back of your body. Raise and check the left and right sides of your arms as well.
  2. Check your underarms, forearms and palms carefully. Do the same in between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  3. Moving onto the lower half of your body, examine the front and back of your legs, the soles of your feet, and in between your toes.
  4. Next, use a hand mirror to look at the back of your neck. Check your scalp also. Part your hair if necessary so that you can see more clearly.
  5. Lastly, use your hand mirror to check your back and buttocks.

If you notice any spots that stand out as unusual, itch or bleed, or that have changed over time, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist right away.

Checking For Melanoma

Melanoma being the most dangerous of commonly diagnosed skin cancers, it’s especially important that you know what to look for. The ABCDE’s are good to keep in mind while doing your self-examinations:

  • Asymmetry: Is one side of a mole or pigmented spot different than the other side?
  • Borders: Does a spot have an irregular, scallop, or poorly-defined border?
  • Color: Does a spot have various colors such as tan, brown, black, white, red or blue?
  • Diameter: Is the spot or mole nearing or larger than 6mm in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser)?
  • Evolving: Have you noticed changes in size, shape, or color? Does a spot appear different from any other existing ones?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, a professional examination is in order and should be scheduled as soon as possible.

How Often Should You Check?

We’ve discussed how to check your skin but how often should you do a self-exam?

It would be wise to give yourself a thorough once-over on a monthly basis. And, in the absence of any unusual changes in your skin, you should see your dermatologist once a year.

Of course, if you notice any changes before then or have a higher risk for skin cancer, you should go more often.

To schedule your next skin exam, contact us today or call (843) 872-3015.

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