How to Spot Skin Cancer

How to Spot Skin Cancer May 18, 2021 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team

Regardless of age, gender, or race, anyone can get skin cancer. As we mentioned in our last blog, one in five Americans will likely get skin cancer by the age of 70. However, it’s important to note that when caught early enough, skin cancer is highly treatable. So, the question is, “how can you spot skin cancer?” Keep reading to find tips on what to look for, where to look, and when to look for skin cancer.  

What To Look For

When doing a self-examination, you should be looking for spots that are new, changing, or unusual. If you notice any of these things (or itching or bleeding), schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. As a way to recall what to look for, remember the ABCDEs of melanoma...
  • A for Asymmetry
    • An asymmetrical spot has one half that is different from the other half.
  • B for Border
    • The border of the spot has an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
  • C for Color
    • The color of the spot varies. This could mean shades of tan, brown, black, white, red, or blue in one area.
  • D for Diameter
    • The diameter of melanomas are typically 6mm (or the size of a pencil eraser); however, they can be smaller.
  • E for Evolving
    • The spot has evolved over time and has changed in size, shape, and color.

Where To Look

It’s useful to know where to look for skin cancer when doing a self-exam. To be able to assess your body entirely, we recommend using both a full-length mirror and a hand mirror. To keep track of your spots or changes in your skin, take note of them using a body mole map like this one from the American Academy of Dermatology. It allows you to easily record the location and look of your spots, which you can use to compare the results of future examinations. Here’s where you should look...
  • Full body overview
    • While looking in the full-length mirror, examine the front and back of your body. Additionally, inspect both of your sides with your arms raised. 
  • Arms and hands
    • Next, evaluate your forearms, underarms, tops of your hands, and palms.
  • Legs and feet
    • Scan the front and back of your legs. Then take a seat to check the tops and bottoms of your feet and in between each of your toes. 
  • Neck and scalp
    • Next, grab a hand mirror to take a closer look at the back of your neck and scalp. It’s helpful to part your hair in a couple different ways to have a thorough look.
  • Back and buttocks
    • Lastly, examine your back and buttocks with the hand mirror. 

When to Look

Dermatologists recommend doing a self-examination once a month. Use your ABCDEs and check all the right places when doing so. In addition, you should schedule a check-up with your dermatologist at least once a year (or more if you are at high risk for skin cancer or notice something suspicious).  

Final Thoughts

Now that you know what to look for, where to look, and when to look, you should be able to do your own self-examinations to spot skin cancer. While this might be an added task to your to-do list, just remember that skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early. You don’t want to be part of a preventable statistic. For dermatology questions or to schedule an appointment, please contact Complete Family Dermatology in Lincoln, NE at 402-423-1111.

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