As we enter the final days of 2022, you may be thinking of ways to take better care of yourself in the new year. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests making a commitment to get to know your skin better — learning about the warning signs of skin cancer and what to do if you see something suspicious could save your life.
“Skin cancer is the world’s most common cancer, but it is often overlooked or dismissed,” says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “It is one of the most curable forms of cancer if diagnosed and treated early. But if allowed to grow, certain types of skin cancer can become disfiguring and even deadly.”
Here are three ways to increase your chances of spotting a skin cancer before it becomes dangerous:
Learn the warning signs of skin cancer. A good rule of thumb is to look out for anything new, changing or unusual on your skin. This could be a mole or birthmark that increases in size, thickness, changes color or texture or is bigger than a pencil eraser. A skin cancer can also appear as a growth that increases in size and appears pearly, transparent, tan, brown, black or multicolored. Other warning signs include a spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed, especially if it does not heal within three weeks.
Perform a monthly self-exam. By dedicating some time every few weeks to take a thorough look at your skin, you’re giving yourself the best chance of noticing anything suspicious early on. Try picking one date to perform your self-exam every month or setting up a reminder on your phone to ensure you stay on track. Taking photos of any spots that are new or changing can help you keep track of potential problems. You can find detailed instructions for performing a skin check on SkinCancer.org/exam.
Schedule a professional exam. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends adults see a dermatologist for a professional skin exam at least once a year. Dermatologists are specially trained to recognize the signs of skin cancer and can look at any spots you may have noted in your self-exams. If you have a higher risk of developing skin cancer (you have a history of melanoma, for example), your dermatologist may suggest more frequent examinations.
“Remember, skin cancer is the cancer you can see,” says Dr. Sarnoff. “Unlike cancers that develop inside the body, skin cancers form on the outside and are usually visible. If you see anything suspicious on your skin, make an appointment with a dermatologist right away.”
VOL. 112, NO. 52 - Dec. 28, 2022