In the last post of my skin series I’m answering that common question,”what are the signs of skin cancer?” and discussing how to check your moles for any worrying changes that should trigger you to see your GP. After all, it’s all well and good knowing how to protect your skin, but if you don’t know what to look out for, how will you know if there’s a problem?
Luckily, when it comes to moles, there’s a fool proof way of checking them which I’m going to share with you today. Most skin cancers can be easily treated if detected early, so you should aim to check your moles each month to pick up any early changes.
It can be quite a task to check all the moles on your body so it’s good to have a systematic way of doing so. That way, you don’t miss anything.
Here’s a simple way of examining all your moles for signs of skin cancer, as recommended by the British Association of Dermatologists:
1) Look in a mirror and carry out a full upper body examination, checking your face, neck and chest right down to your hips. Ask a friend or family member to check your scalp, ears, back and all of the areas you can’t easily see yourself.
2) Check your arms and elbows, including underarms and both sides of your hands.
3) Examine all of your lower body, checking your legs front and back, your feet, soles and even between your toes.
SO, WHAT CHANGES ARE THE SIGNS OF SKIN CANCER?
Us medics like to keep things simple, as demonstrated in this ABCDE approach to checking moles. This is a method for detecting malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, however, there are different forms of skin cancer so if you have any concerns about your skin, get it checked!
A FOR ASYMMETRY- the two halves of the mole may differ in their shape and not match.
B FOR BORDER- the outside edges of the mole or area may be blurred, and sometimes show notches or look ‘ragged’.
C FOR COLOUR- This may be uneven and patchy. Watch out for new colours appearing. Different shades of black, brown, pink and even purple may be seen.
D FOR DIAMETER– Melanomas will progressively change. If you see any mole, or ‘mole-like’ mark getting bigger over a period of weeks to months, tell your doctor.
E FOR EXPERT- If you’re worried about a changing mole- see your GP. We’ll be able to look at it and either reassure you or refer you on to a dermatologist who are experts at detecting skin cancers to have a closer look.
I hope you’ve found The Skin Series helpful. Whatever you’re up to this summer, have a great time, and remember to wear sunscreen!
PS: Check out the Sun Awareness Campaign by the British Association of Dermatologists for my advice about protecting your skin
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