Melanoma Monday: What You Need to Know

Moles, spots and certain growths on the skin are usually harmless – but not always. That is why it is so important to examine the skin all over your body once a month and have a physician check you over once a year. Early detection of skin cancer can ensure effective treatment.

Using a bright light and mirrors, and working from top to bottom, examine:

  • head and face (use a blow-dryer to inspect your scalp)
  • elbows, arms, and underarms
  • neck, chest, and torso
  • genitals and breasts
  • back of neck, shoulders, upper arms, back, buttocks, and legs
  • feet (including soles, heels, and nails)

Look for the following “ABCDE” warning signs:

  • Asymmetry. Do the two halves not match if you imagine drawing a line through the mole?
    hands and nails

  • Borders. Are the edges uneven, scalloped or notched?
  • Colors. Is there a variety of shades (brown, red, white, blue or black)?
  • Diameter greater than 6mm. Is the mole the size of a pencil eraser or larger?
  • Evolution. Has there been a change in size, shape, color, or height? Has a new symptom developed (such as bleeding, itching or crusting)?
  • If you detect any of these warning signs, see a physician promptly. It is particularly important for you to select a physician who specializes in skin cancer and is trained to recognize a melanoma at its earliest stage.

5 Steps to Skin Cancer Self-Exam

  1. Using a mirror in a well lit room, check the front of your body -face, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, thighs and lower legs.
  2. Turn sideways, raise your arms and look carefully at the right and left sides of your body, including the underarm area.
  3. With a hand-held mirror, check your upper back, neck and scalp. Next, examine your lower back, buttocks, backs of thighs and calves.
  4. Examine your forearms, palms, back of the hands, fingernails and in between each finger.
  5. Finally, check your feet – the tops, soles, toenails, toes and spaces in between.

You can also visit the Save Your Skin website for a list of FAQ’s.