Sunday, February 12, 2017

Do you Really Need to Perform Self-Exams for Skin Cancer?

Got 5 minutes?

That’s all it takes to check yourself for skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States. Though melanoma (the deadliest form of this disease) has been increasing by six percent annually, only 18 percent of women have ever had an annual skin check from a doctor, according to CDC data. Another survey from L’Oréal Paris found that 88 percent of women have never discussed melanoma with their docs and a slim 30 percent do a monthly skin self-exam, as recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Regular skin exams are essential for the early detection of skin cancer. 70% of skin cancer cases are found by patients, not doctors, so it is important to get to know your body and look for any new or changing lesions. Remember, all moles are guilty until proven innocent, and it is important to find the suspicious ones early and talk to your doctor right away.

It is recommended that you perform monthly head-to-toe skin self-examinations. The first time you examine your skin, spend some time learning the patterns of moles, freckles and blemishes on your skin to better compare and track changes the following months. Each time you perform a self-examination, carefully go through the following steps, ensuring you check the entire surface of your skin.

The best place to do your check is in a bright room. You will need: a full-length mirror, a hand-held mirror, a blow dryer, a chair or seat to sit on, and a well-lit area.


Begin by facing the full-length mirror. Examine your face carefully, ensuring to check the lips, mouth, nose, and both sides of the ear. It may help to use the hand-held mirror as well as the full-length mirror to get a better look.

Use the blow dryer to examine the entire surface of the scalp

Torso (Front)

Facing the full-length mirror, inspect the neck, chest and torso. Check the skin underneath each breast. Ensure to lift your arms and check the sides of your upper body as well.

Torso (Back)

Face away from the full-length mirror, holding the handheld mirror. Examine your back, your shoulders, the back of your neck, and any other body parts you could not see from the front

From there, continue down your body and examine your buttocks and the backs of your thighs.

Lower Body

Sit on the chair or seat. Scan your legs, using the handheld mirror to look at the back of each leg. Check the tops and soles of your feet, ensuring to check the spaces between your toes, and underneath your toenails.

Use the handheld mirror to check your genitals and the insides of your thighs.

Arms & Hands

Bend your elbows and carefully inspect all sides of your arms, shoulders and underarms.

Thoroughly inspect the tops and palms of your hands, one by one. Check in between your fingers and underneath your fingernails.

What Should I Look for?

Skin cancers can show up in many shapes and sizes. Be sure to show your doctor any areas that concern you, especially if they have just appeared or have changed recently.

Basal and squamous cell cancers

Basal cell cancers and squamous cell cancers are most often found in areas that get exposed to a lot of sun, such as the head, neck, and arms, but they can develop anywhere on the body. Look for new growths, spots, bumps, patches, or sores that don’t heal after several weeks. Shaving cuts that don’t heal in few days sometimes turn out to be skin cancers, which often bleed easily. They are not caused by shaving.

Basal cell carcinomas can appear in a number of different ways:
·         Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar
·         Raised reddish patches that might be itchy
·         Small, pink or red, translucent, shiny, pearly bumps, which might have blue, brown, or black areas
·         Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in their center, which might contain abnormal blood vessels
·         Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that don’t heal, or that heal and then come back

Squamous cell carcinomas can appear as:
·         Rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
·         Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
·         Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that don’t heal, or that heal and then come back
·         Wart-like growths

Both of these types of skin cancer may develop as a flat area showing only slight changes from normal skin.

Actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, is a skin condition that can sometimes progress to squamous cell cancer (although most of them do not).
Actinic keratoses are caused by too much sun exposure. They are usually small (less than ¼ inch across), rough or scaly spots that may be pink-red or flesh-colored. Usually they start on the face, ears, backs of the hands, and arms, but they can occur on other sun-exposed areas of skin. People with one actinic keratosis usually develop many more.

Some can grow into squamous cell cancers, while others may stay the same or even go away on their own. But it can be hard sometimes even for doctors to tell them apart from true skin cancers. These areas should be looked at by a doctor, who can help decide if they should be treated.

Moles and melanomas

Normal moles

A normal mole is usually an evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot on the skin. It can be either flat or raised. It can be round or oval. Moles are generally less than 6 millimeters (about ¼ inch) across (about the width of a pencil eraser). Some moles can be present at birth, but most appear during childhood or young adulthood. New moles that appear later in life should be checked by a doctor.
Once a mole has developed, it will usually stay the same size, shape, and color for many years. Some moles may fade away with age.

Most people have moles, and almost all moles are harmless. But it’s important to notice changes in a mole – such as in its size, shape, or color – because this may be a sign that melanoma is developing.

Possible signs and symptoms of melanoma

The most important warning sign for melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that’s changing in size, shape, or color. Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin. If you have any of these warning signs, have your skin checked by a doctor.

The ABCDE rule is another guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:
·         A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
·         B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
·         C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
·         D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
·         E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

Some melanomas do not fit the rules described above, so it’s important to tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on the skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.

Other warning signs are:
·         A sore that does not heal
·         Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
·         Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
·         Change in sensation – itchiness, tenderness, or pain
·         Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a bump or nodule

Whole Body Medical Photography

You may be seeing some moles on your skin, which you suspect might be representing the unwanted conditions, but you are not sure, that you figured that right. Definitely, the smartest way is make appointment with your dermatologist. But if you are not ready to ring a bell yet, take good photos of your moles as a reference, and monitor if there are any signs of the unwanted development (moles that grow, get darker, or morph into a different shape could be a sign that they're atypical) with the periodical pictures of the same moles.

However, you may try to consider the full body photography session, which will help you to get a reference on the whole body skin condition. You may visit the special medical photography studio to have high-definition photos taken of every part of your body. Or, you may use a help of your husband or boyfriend to conduct this creative procedure.

"This procedure is especially beneficial for patients who have more than 100 moles," says New York City dermatologist Julie Karen, M.D. While you might not be so excited about having a series of extremely high-def naked photos of yourself taken, Brewer says that in addition to helping your doctor, they can also help you do skin cancer self-exams. "These photos can really help you see new or changing moles when you're looking at your own skin, because they document all of your skin—your moles and also the rest of your skin that doesn't currently have moles," he says. "Once you hit your mid-30s and early 40s, you really shouldn't be growing any new moles, so total body photography can give you a thorough comparison point to help you spot new moles that pop up."

Useful App

SkinVision is a free to download application for Android and iOS, which helps you to check any moles for skin cancer risk.

The unique online assessment (algorithm) determines potential non-natural growth of pigmented moles on your skin, a first of its kind. It has been tested scientifically in 2013 in the dermatology clinic; Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Clinic in Munich, Germany. Associate Professor Dr. Tanja von Braunmühl states: "SkinVision is a promising solution for awareness and self-detection for individuals, and a new communication platform between the doctor and the individual". SkinVision is a skin cancer risk app with the first and only CE certified online assessment.

How does it work?

1. Take a picture
Hold the device over a mole or skin condition and take a picture.

2. Analyze
The app will analyze the spot in an instant and give you a recommendation

3. Track changes
Archive your picture, keep track of changes over time and share it with your doctor

Sources and Additional Information:

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