As May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we thought it was about time to simplify personal at-home screening. We’re always told how important it is to get regularly screened for skin cancer and they say once a year should be enough. But what about the other 364 days? What many people do not realize is that you can easily give yourself a full examination at home. This isn’t to say that you shouldn't still see a dermatologist for a professional exam, but in between now and your next screening, you could have developed skin cancer. So what should you look out for? Not to worry. We’ll walk you through how to give yourself a proper examination and the top three things you should look out for when checking for skin cancer.
Before you can begin to check yourself for possible skin cancer, you have to first know what it is. Skin cancer is a disease typically caused by overexposure to ultraviolet rays. These rays contain high amounts of radiation. When our bodies constantly absorb this radiation (via excessive sun exposure or overuse of tanning beds), it causes a violent reaction. This reaction is known as ionizing, in which the radiation completely destroys the electrons in our atoms. When the atoms become ionized, they can no longer function properly within our DNA. As our DNA breaks down, it gives way for cancer cells to develop and begin attacking our skin cells. While skin cancer can develop in other ways, ultraviolet exposure is the most common cause. Luckily, this means that it can be easily prevented by wearing sunblock or sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, limiting your amount of time in the sun, and avoiding tanning beds.
As we mentioned, giving yourself an at-home examination is a good way to stay on top of your skin health outside of your annual screening. The point of these screenings is to check for any signs of skin cancer. In order to check properly, you’ll need two mirrors; a stationary one and a moveable or portable mirror. Allow the stationary mirror to be in front of you and position yourself so you can see your entire body. Use the front mirror to examine the front of your body. To examine the back, turn your back to the stationary mirror. Move the portable mirror around to catch the reflection of your back from the stationary mirror. Be sure to scan slowly and keep an eye out for these three main features:
Most often, dermatologists spot skin cancer by noticing a new mole or strange growth on the body. These are signs that there is some type of reaction happening just beneath the skin’s surface. New growths or any changes to your moles may indicate skin cancer. Follow the ABCDE rule to determine if a mole is worth being further examined by a dermatologist.
Blisters and open sores typically appear when the cancer is situated comfortably within your system. If you have lesions or open sores that refuse to heal and close after 2 weeks, you may have skin cancer. Be sure to contact your doctor immediately.
Itchy patches of skin that may crust or bleed may be a sign that cancer cells are beginning to attack your skin cells. These patches are often dry and sometimes painful. If you experience this, DO NOT SCRATCH. Contact your doctor right away.
These three features are important factors in determining whether or not you have skin cancer. So if you are in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and you’ve spotted one of these signs or are simply ready for your annual screening, our experts at The Dermatology Group are ready for you. Give us a call today!