The skin is the largest organ on the body and often is the most overlooked when it comes to your health. If you’re concerned about a skin condition or worried about something on your skin, see a dermatologist. A dermatologist will be able to help you with a variety of skin conditions and help you understand what to look for when it comes to signs of skin cancer so that you can learn how to do regular skin screenings on your own.
The importance of at-home skin checks
In addition to regular skin exams with a dermatologist, it’s important that you examine your skin regularly to check for changes between appointments. If you have a strong family history of skin cancer, people who have had skin cancer before and people who have reduced immunity, then you have a higher risk of skin cancer. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be really looking at your skin.
Where do you look?
To do a skin self-exam, find a full-length mirror, a hand-held mirror and a well-lit room. The hand-held mirror will come into play when you are looking at the backs of your calves and thighs, the bottom of your feet and other hard-to-see areas. In the mirror, check your entire face, including your ears. Women need to look under their breasts to check the skin underneath as well. Look at your underarm areas, each side of your arms, the tops and palms of your hands and in between your fingers. Remove nail polish so you can see under your fingernails. One area that can be overlooked is the scalp. Use a comb to part your hair so you can see your scalp.
What are you looking for?
The first time you perform a self-exam, you should carefully go over the surface of your skin. It’s important to learn the patterns of moles, blemishes and freckles so that you’ll notice when there are changes. If you see an area of concern, talk to your doctor. Not all skin cancers look the same, and may look like other skin conditions.
Skin cancers may appear as:
- A new or changing growth, bump or spot on the skin
- A rough or scaly red patch
- A sore that bleeds and doesn’t heal
- A growth that looks like a wart
- A new or changing mole
- A mole that has an odd shape, irregular borders or different colors