be sure to have regular skin cancer checks

Can You Self Examine For Skin Cancer?

Hey there Guys. Today I came across an interesting post by the American Academy of Dermatology teaching people how they can examine their own skin for skin cancer, in particular melanoma. Having grown up in Australia I’m very aware of the importance of having regular skin exams. Sadly many of my friends having had skin cancers removed. Anything that raises awareness of  the importance of looking at your moles for change is a fantastic health idea.

How To Examine Yourself For Skin Cancer

By far the biggest risk factors for developing skin cancer include:

  • Significant sun exposure or sun bed use in the past
  • Having had a skin cancer removed from your skin
  • Having more then 50 moles on your body (dysplastic naevi syndrome)
  • Having red hair or fair skin
  • A family member who has had skin cancer
  • Any medical condition or treatment that reduces the immune system such as chemotherapy, long term steroids or HIV infection

When examining your skin the key is to look out for moles that are different or  that have changed. Moles that are itchy, growing or bleed are of particular. It’s important to show them to your family doctor or dermatologist.

By far the most sinister form of skin cancer is Melanoma.The following are important keys on how to recognise melanoma.

Atypical or Asymmetrical moles:

Melanomas tend to look different to other moles on your body, they are frequently uneven and asymetrical. If you notice a mole that is not symmetrical be sure to have it checked.

A Border that is not smooth:

Melanomas can develop a border that is scalloped, uneven or irregular.

More Then One Colour:

Melanomas may be more than one colour such as brown, black, blue, red, white or light grey.

Diameter more then 6mm:

Moles that are bigger then 6mm or the size of a pencil eraser are suspicious and should be checked by a doctor. Some melanomas can be smaller then this size so this is not a hard and fast rule.

Evolving Moles:

Any mole that is changing is size, shape or colour needs to be checked. As previously mentioned, any mole that is itchy or bleeding is also suspicious for skin cancer.

For excellent images of each of the “A B C D & E’s” of skin cancer watch the video above. It has excellent examples of what to look for.

When checking your skin don’t forget places frequently missed such as the nails, palms of the hands and feet, between toes, in the hair and behind the ears. You can download a great guide to checking for skin cancers here at the Cancer Council Australia.

While I agree that self checking and monitoring is a great idea it’s best done in the setting of a regular check up with your doctor as well. Frequently it’s a review by “a different set of eyes” that can be the key to picking up changes.

Caught early, skin cancers can be easily treated and may even save a life.

When out at about in the sun, even in winter, it’s highly recommended to wear a hat that protects the face, neck and ears as well as using high SPF sunblock on other exposed skin.

Of course if you have any questions about skin cancer be sure to talk to your family doctor.

Yours in good health.

Dr George

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