May is here, and with it comes the beginning of summer and warmer weather. While many of us look forward to spending time outside and basking in the warm massage of the sun’s rays, we must remind ourselves to protect ourselves properly.
May is designated as Skin Cancer Awareness Month for a reason — to raise awareness about the importance of sun protection and early skin cancer detection. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and roughly one in five Americans will develop it during their lifetime. In fact, it’s estimated that around 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer daily.
In this post, we’ll discuss what to look for, how often you should get a skin cancer screening, and why we utilize SkinIO.
Let’s get started!
What to Look For
Melanomas and basal and squamous carcinomas all look a little different. Here are the signs to look for in each of them.
Melanoma: The ABCDE Rule
Checking your moles for signs of melanoma is as easy as ABC… DE! Here are the common signs to look for:
Basal and Squamous Cancer Cells
While melanomas are often the most well-known, they’re not the most common form of skin cancer. Both Basal and squamous carcinomas occur more frequently in people. Luckily, both types are very treatable.
Basal Cell Carcinomas
Basal cell carcinomas can take many different appearances. They can take the form of:
Squamous Cell Carcinomas
These carcinomas also take multiple forms, including:
How to Check Yourself
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to check yourself! Don’t wait until your next doctor’s appointment to check for signs of skin cancer. The best way to treat skin cancer is by catching it early. You can check yourself in the mirror to catch questionable spots.
For best results, check for signs of skin cancer in a full-length mirror in a well-lit room. You’ll also want a hand-held mirror to examine areas that are harder to see, like your back or thighs.
When examining your skin for the first time, make a note of any moles or birthmarks. You’re probably fine if they look normal (e.g. if they’re not off-color or fall into the ABCDE categories). Be sure to keep an eye on them for any changes or irregularities.
According to Cancer.gov, here’s your step-by-step guide for your self-examination:
- Start by facing the mirror and inspecting your face, neck, ears, chest, and stomach. If you’re a woman, you should also lift your breasts to check the underlying skin.
- Next, inspect both sides of your arms, underarm areas, and the tops and psalm of your hands. You should also check between your fingers and under your fingernails.
- Sit down and examine your legs, including your thighs and shins. Look at the tops of your feet, between your toes, and under your toenails.
- Examine the backs of your thighs one at a time using a hand mirror. Then, look at your calves and the bottoms of your feet.
- Stand up and, still using your hand mirror, examine your genital areas, your butt, and your upper and lower back. Also, look at the back of your ears and neck. In some of these spots, you may need to examine yourself by staring at your full-length mirror while using your hand mirror (similar to how your barber shows you the back of your head after your haircut is complete).
- Examine your scalp by parting your hair with the help of a comb or hair dryer.
For steps 4-6, it may be easier if you enlist the help of your partner, friend, or family member.
How Often Should You Get Skin Cancer Screenings?
We recommend doing a self-checkup once a month, even if the weather’s been crappy. Again, it’s always best to catch it early on because that’s when you have the most treatment options available.
You should also get a full examination with your physician about once a year, usually during your annual checkup.
Why We Utilize SkinIO
When you get your skin cancer checkup with Boston Direct Health, you’ll get it with SkinIO. SkinIO is easy to use — you can even do the exam yourself in ten minutes! SkinIO’s app tasks clinical-grade photos of your skin, then documents and changes to your skin over time. From there, SkinIO uses algorithms to identify which spots should be examined by a dermatologist. If you’re concerned about a mole or specific skin area, you can take pictures of it and send them to your dermatologist to analyze further.
Once your dermatologist has the information collected from SkinIO’s app, they can suggest that you come in for a follow-up appointment or let you know that you’re good to go and no follow-up is necessary. It’s that simple!