Skin cancer is extremely common, and by age 70, one in every five people will be diagnosed with some form of this disease. However, with early detection, 99% of all skin cancers can be successfully treated. Only a qualified dermatologist can diagnose skin cancer, but you can help out at home as well. Learn how to conduct a simple skin cancer self-exam with guidance from Dermatology Associates of Central New York so you can keep an eye on areas of concern between appointments.
Who Needs Skin Cancer Self-Checks?
The simple answer is everyone. No one is 100% safe from skin cancer. Still, regular self-exams are especially important for anyone with an elevated risk for skin cancer, including:
- A family history of skin cancer
- A previous diagnosis
- Light skin, hair, and eyes
- Skin that reddens, burns, or freckles easily
- Many moles
- Conditions that compromise the immune system
Keep in mind that darker skin does not offer additional protection from skin cancer. In fact, individuals with darker skin are sometimes diagnosed at a later stage due to overlooked symptoms.
What Do I Need to Check My Skin?
Your doctor can advise on how often you should examine your skin. After you decide on a regular schedule, make a reminder in your phone’s calendar or a planner. To prepare for your self-exam, you’ll need the following:
- A full-length mirror, or the largest mirror you have
- A hand mirror
- A chair or other place to sit near the mirror
- A notebook and pen or a note-taking app
Set aside at least 15 minutes for your self-exam. You can also ask a spouse, family member, or friend to help check any hard-to-see areas.
A Quick and Easy 8-Step Skin Exam
Gather the supplies noted above and position your chair in front of the mirror. Many people prefer to do their shelf-checks after showering for convenience. Next:
- Carefully check your face, ears, neck, chest (including under your breasts, if relevant), and stomach while facing the mirror.
- Examine your underarm areas, the sides of your arms, and your hands. You should also look between your fingers and beneath the nails.
- Sit down and check your legs one at a time, from your thighs to your shins.
- Check your feet one at a time, including between your toes and under the toenails.
- Grab your hand mirror and review the soles of your feet and the backs of your legs from your calves to your thighs.
- Still using the hand mirror, check your buttocks, genital area, and lower and upper back. You may need to view the full-length mirror with your hand mirror for a better angle.
- Check the back of your neck and ears with the same method.
- Check your scalp, using a comb to part the hair.
If this is your first self-exam, make note of any noticeable moles, freckles, birthmarks, and more. You’ll want to check these carefully each time.
After the Self-Exam
When you’re done, make careful notes of any unusual spots. Jot down what raised questions – are they darker, lighter, oddly shaped, dimpled, or sore? You can also make note of any general questions you’d like to ask a dermatologist. Be aware of any areas that:
- Change in shape, color, or size
- Are new moles or marks
- Are growths that resemble warts
- Have unusual shapes and/or ragged borders
- Have scaly or rough patches
- Are bleeding, crusting, and/or oozing
Your next step? Reach out to your dermatologist. At Dermatology Associates of Central New York, Dr. Amin Fazeli, M.D. Ph.D., FAAD, FACMS and our team of experienced dermatologists can answer your questions and follow up with a professional exam to determine whether any of the issues you’ve observed could be skin cancer. To learn more, contact our Fayetteville, NY practice to schedule a skin cancer screening today.