May is Skin Cancer Awareness month, a time during which we tend to have a heightened awareness of the importance of conducting regular skin checks. But as time goes on and we reach the autumn, most of us tend to grow less conscious of this ritual. Considering that 99% of all cases of skin cancer are curable if they are diagnosed and treated early enough, it's clear that regular skin exams are essential.
How to Perform a Monthly Skin Exam
Conducting a self-check of your skin couldn't be easier and takes just minutes. It's easiest to do after showering, while undressed and standing in front of a mirror. Be sure to inspect areas of skin that are not regularly exposed to the sun, such as your underarms, and areas that are hidden, such as your scalp. Most moles are harmless and nothing to worry about. For your self exam, you are looking for moles that fit the categories below, easily remembered as the A-B-C-D-Es:
Look for any moles that are an asymmetrical shape. Think about drawing a line down the middle of it; if the two halves don't match, take note of the mole.
Document any moles with uneven borders or raised textures. You're looking for moles that appear bumpy or with jagged or blurred edges.
Moles are usually a single color (usually a shade of brown). Atypical moles that are characterized by several shades, such as tan, red, pink and even blue, should be noted.
Most moles are smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser (6 mm). When moles grow to a size larger than this, it should be documented.
When you conduct a regular skin check you'll become more aware of any new moles and changes that your existing moles undergo. This is important, as moles that change in shape, color, size or texture should be examined by a dermatologist.
Beyond your monthly self-performed skin check, it's highly recommended that you have a standing annual appointment with a dermatologist who will also review your skin and chart any moles that should be monitored, as well as those that require a closer look. However, if during your regular skin checks you find a mole that falls into an A-B-C-D- or E-category, it's vital that you set up an appointment with your dermatologist immediately to have it investigated.