How to Check for Skin Cancer

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends making a head-to-toe skin check part of your annual physical. In between exams, monitor your skin for these changes.

Skin cancer is the second most common cancer for women between the ages of 20 and 29, and for women under 40, skin cancer has tripled in the last 30 years. Once a year, starting at age 20, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends making a head-to-toe skin check as part of your annual physical check-up. The median age for diagnosis of skin cancer is 59, but the sooner skin cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.

How to Check:

Your goal is to keep an ongoing record of changes to your skin. So first inspect yourself, taking note of freckles, moles, and any suspicious sores that haven’t healed. Then either write your findings down on a pad of paper dedicated solely to your monthly checks, or use an illustration of the human body (or a printout of a photo of yourself in a swimsuit) to mark where you’ve found things. When you do your next check, update and compare your charts.

A normal mole is usually brown, tan or black. It can be flat or raised; they tend to be symmetrical with even borders. If moles or spots on your skin change in size, shape or color, see a dermatologist right away. Remember the ABCDE warning signs for skin cancer: A mole or spot that is Asymmetrical, has an irregular Border, is unevenly Colored (or has patches of red, white or blue), has a Diameter wider than 1/4-inch, or seems to be Evolving needs to be examined by a health care professional. And if the mole or spot bleeds or itches, get it checked out as soon as possible.

Popular Videos

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest