Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. A self exam should begin with the ABCDE’s of melanoma. Look for danger signs in pigmented lesions of the skin.
Consult a dermatologist immediately if any of your moles or pigmented spots exhibits one or more of the following:
A: Asymmetry: One half unlike the other half.
B: Border: Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C: Color: Varied from one area to another, shades of tan and brown/black, sometimes white, red or blue.
D: Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm, however, they can be smaller.
E: Evolving or enlarging: A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.
In order to perform a self exam, people should exam the entire body.
- Examine your body front and back in the mirror, then right and left sides with arms raised.
- Bend elbows and look carefully at forearms, upper underarms and palms.
- Look at the backs of your legs and feet, the spaces between your toes and on the sole.
- Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair for a closer look.
- Finally, check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror.
People of all skin types and races get skin cancer. Early detection and proper treatment are key in curing skin cancer. Untreated skin cancer can damage surrounding tissue and in some cases, like melanoma, spread throughout the body and to the lymph system and internal organs.
“There is good evidence that over-exposure to ultraviolet light is an important risk factor for the development of melanoma and other skin cancers,” said Dr. Stuart Kolner, McFarland Clinic Dermatologist, “It is important to get in the habit of practicing sun protection by using an SPF 30 or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen, cover exposed skin whenever possible, sit in the shade when you can, and avoid outdoor activities when possible between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.”
The earlier skin cancer is detected the more likely it is to be in a treatable stage. Regular self exams of the skin are easy to do and can prevent spreading of cancer. If after you perform a self exam and discover changed moles or lesions, contact your dermatologist immediately.
The McFarland Clinic Dermatology Department is located at 3600 Lincoln Way in Ames. To schedule an appointment to see a dermatologist please call (515) 239-4492.