Paying close attention to your moles, freckles, and birthmarks and checking your skin monthly, is one of the easiest and most effective ways to catch skin cancer before it develops too far. A regular skin exam by a medical professional is also important since you can’t see every inch of your skin easily.
If you find any suspicious spots on your skin, you should have them evaluated by a dermatologist right away. The sooner skin cancer is diagnosed, the better chance you have of a positive outcome.
Know Your Skin Cancer ABCDEs
If you are especially prone to freckles or moles, it can be hard to determine which marks on your skin are normal and which are not. To make it a little easier, the American Cancer Society recommends that you be on the lookout for an “ugly duckling” on your skin — any mark that looks different than all the others. Additionally, the following ABCDE rule is helpful in spotting potential melanomas.
- A for Asymmetry: Half of the mole or mark doesn’t match the other half.
- B for Border: Irregular, jagged, blurry or notched edges.
- C for Color: a Non-uniform color that includes different shades of black or brown or red, white, pink or blue patches.
- D for Diameter: The growth is more than ¼ inch in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser.)
- E for Evolving: The mole is growing or changing color or shape.
Keep in mind that not all skin cancers follow these rules. However, many do. When in doubt about any mark on your skin that seems unusual, be cautious and schedule an appointment with your dermatologist to have it examined.
Monthly Self-Exams Increase the Likelihood of Early Detection
In addition to monthly self-exams to check for skin cancer signs and symptoms, it’s a good idea to keep a record of your findings on a body map. Not only is it an effective way to identify new spots or changes in existing spots, it’s easy to do. On a diagram of the body, you simply make marks that correspond to the marks on your skin, then draw lines out to the margin to record approximate size, color, and date. Use the same map to record your findings each month.
With each self-exam, you’ll become more familiar with what is normal for you. This will make it easier to detect what is truly unusual so you can have it checked out.