Monthly Self-Exams for Your Skin and What to Look For
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The good news is most types of skin cancer are curable if found early. Learn about your own pattern of moles, freckles, blemishes and other marks on the skin so you can notice changes during monthly self-exams.
For this reason, the American Cancer Society suggests a cancer-related exam by a doctor, including a skin test, every three years between ages 20 and 40, and once a year for those 40 and older.* The American Academy of Dermatology also offers sun safety tips and lists free skin cancer screenings offered near you.
As well as a yearly skin exam by your doctor, you should also do a monthly self-exam. Learn about your own pattern of moles, freckles, blemishes and other marks on the skin so you can notice changes during monthly self-exams. The Skin Cancer Foundation offers a step-by-step guide to help you with your self-exam.
Changes to watch for:
- A new mole that doesn't look like your other moles.
- A spot that is getting larger.
- A raised patch that seems flaky and red.
- A firm bump that's the same color as the rest of your skin.
- A visible sore that doesn't heal within three months.
- A mole that changes in size, shape or color.
Use the "ABCD rule" as an easy guide to the signs of skin cancer:
- Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
- Border: Edges are not even, ragged, notched or blurred.
- Color: Color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes patches of pink, red, white or blue.
- Diameter: Spot is larger than six millimeters across (about 1/4 inch — the size of a pencil eraser), even though some melanomas can be smaller.
Don't forget to protect your skin when you're outside and to give yourself regular self-exams. Spotting skin cancer early is half the cure.