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Examine Your Skin

Skin cancer is highly curable and when detected early can be treated and removed. It is important to check the skin on a monthly basis and to consult a physician immediately if there are changes to the skin.

What to look for:

The ‘ABCDE’ rule is used to look for skin changes such as spots, moles or sores that do not heal.

A is for Asymmetry. One half of the mole or birthmark does not match the other.

B is for Border. The edges are ragged, irregular, or poorly defined.

C is for Color. The color varies from one area to another, may have differing shades of brown or black, sometimes white, red or blue.

D is for Diameter. The area is larger than 6 mm (as a general rule, the size of a pencil eraser) and is growing larger.

E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color, elevation or other trait, or any new symptoms.

How to look for it:

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests the following monthly self skin exam routine:

  1. Examine your body front and back in the mirror, then right and left sides arms raised.
  2. Bend elbows and look carefully at forearms and upper underarms and palms.
  3. Look at the backs of the legs and feet, spaces between toes, and sole.
  4. Examine back of neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair for a closer look.
  5. Finally, check back and buttocks with hand mirror.

Tracking your moles:

Are you at higher risk for skin damage? Think about tracking your moles to evaluate any changes over time. This is especially true for individuals with many moles. Download this body diagram and mark where all of the moles occur on your body. Another options, is to take photographs of your moles and keep them on file -- either on your computer or in a cabinet. Use the photographs and the body map when you are checking your skin and if you see any changes go to your doctor. When you visit the doctor take the body diagram and photos with you as tools to aid in your discussion.

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