Examining Your Skin

Model checking shoulder

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. Currently it is estimated that 1 in 5 people will be diagnosed with some sort of skin cancer in their lifetime, and this number is rising. If diagnosed and treated early, most skin cancers have high cure rates. When left unattended, skin cancer can cause disfigurement and even death.

It is advisable for everyone to get a skin exam from their dermatology provider annually, or more frequently if you have risk factors. Your dermatology provider can counsel you on individual recommendations. It is also advisable for everyone to do a full body skin exam on themselves once monthly.

There are “ABCDE” guidelines for evaluating melanomas. These criteria will help with monthly self skin examinations. If the lesion in question falls outside these guidelines, it does not mean you have skin cancer; however, it does mean that you should have it professionally evaluated.
A – asymmetry – some abnormal moles have asymmetry
B – borders – the borders of normal lesions should be regular
C – color – if the color of a particular lesion is different from all your other lesions, or if it is multicolored, it is worth getting checked
D – diameter – the diameter of the lesion should be smaller than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser)
E – evolving – if any of your moles/lesions are changing (color, size, shape, etc.) you should get them checked

Skin cancers come in different colors and textures: pink and pearly, translucent, brown, tan, black, or multicolored. So even if you do not have moles, it is still important to pay attention to other skin lesions and to have them evaluated and monitored. It is also important to pay attention to skin lesions that bleed, recur, or don’t heal after 3 weeks.

Recent studies show that melanoma in pregnant and recently pregnant women brings significantly more grave odds to the already serious consequences of melanoma, including higher rates of recurrence, metastasis, and death. With this study in mind, it is definitely important not to neglect your skin during pregnancy and at least 1 year following pregnancy. Annual skin exams are extremely important during these times and may be recommended even more frequently if you have a personal or family history of melanoma, or if you have 50 or more moles.

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