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The ABCDs of Skin Self-Exams continued from page 11

In my practice, I also recommend that patients look for other signs of skin cancer, including moles that suddenly rise, easily bleed, or have white circles around them.

Most of the time, melanomas and

Skin Self-Exam From Head to Toe

other skin cancers can be easily

When performing a skin self-exam, look for any changes in existing moles, the appearance of new ones or anything that seems unusual. For the exam, you will need a bright light, a full-length mirror, a hand-held mirror, two chairs or stools, and a hair-dryer.

spotted with a monthly self-exam. If you spot any new, suspicious, or unusual growths on your skin, see changes in the size, color, or texture of old moles or skin growths, or have a cut or wound

Inspecting From Head to Toe

Examine your head and face.

that doesn’t seem to heal, contact a dermatologist or other healthcare professional. When it is

When performing a self-exam, remember to check every inch of your body – from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes. Suspicious moles can appear on any part of the body, not just areas that have been exposed to sunlight. The goal is to look for any changes in existing moles, the appearance of new ones, or anything that seems unusual. Start with your head and face. Inspect your scalp using a hairdryer to part your hair, then inspect the rest of your face, neck, ears, mouth, and lips. Even examine your eyes since melanoma can sometimes begin in the eye. Use a mirror to check hard-to-see spots, such as your back and shoulders.

detected at an early stage, skin cancer can be treated effectively most of the time, and is usually curable. However, once the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is difficult to stop and can be deadly. Just as breast self-exams have helped women detect breast cancer early, when the chances for

Inspect your neck, chest, and stomach. Women also should check under their breasts.

survival are the greatest, skin selfexams can help many men and women catch skin cancer early before it becomes a serious concern. Both the National Cancer Institute and American Academy of Dermatology recommend that people perform skin self-exams every month. This, along with yearly skin checks by a dermatologist, is your best line of

Also examine spots that might not seem obvious, such as your underarms, fingernails, between the toes, the buttocks, the groin, and the soles of your feet. Women also should check under their breasts.

Check your hands, including fingernails, and your elbows, arms, and underarms.

defense for protecting your skin

With your back to the mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper arms, back, buttocks, and legs.

health and lowering your chances for developing a potentially lifethreatening cancer. ■ Sitting down, check your legs and feet, including your soles, as well as your genitals.

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Illustrations by John Riddle

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