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Learn The Signs Of Skin Cancer

Updated on July 26, 2012

In addition to your monthly self-exam, have a yearly skin exam by a doctor. But don't wait for your yearly exam to report any changes or irregularities in your skin.

Do a monthly skin self-exam

Use a full-length mirror and hand-held mirror to get familiar with moles and other skin marks. Report any changes or irregularities to your doctor.

1. In a brightly lit room, examine your front and back in a mirror. Raise your arms and check your left and right sides.

2. Bend your elbows and examine your forearms and the back of your upper arms. Then check your palms and between your fingers.

3. Sit down and examine the backs of your legs and feet. Check the soles of your feet and between your toes.

4. While sitting, propr your leg up and examine your genital area using a hand mirror.

5. Examine your neck and scalp using a hand mirror. Part your hair to get a better look.

6. Use a hand mirror to examine your lower back and buttocks, or have a loved one help you.

Learn how to identify the 3 main forms of skin cancer

1. Basal Cell Carcinoma: Look for an open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts then heals and opens up again; reddish patch that may crust, itch, or hurt; shiny bump that is translucent, pearly, brown, tan, black, or multicolored; slightly elevated, pink growth with a crusted center, or scar-like, waxy area where the skin appears taut. The most common skin cancer and the least deadly -- it rarely spreads.

2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Look for a scaly red patch that sometimes crusts or bleeds; elevated growth that bleeds occasionally; open sore that bleeds and doesn't heal after 3 weeks; or wart like growth that crusts and bleeds. Can spread to other parts of the body or develop into a larger tumor.

3. Melanoma: It is the least common skin cancer, but also the most deadly.

Use The ABCDE Rule To Identify Melanoma

Asymmetry:
Noncancerous moles usually are symmetrical (round). Melanoma tumors usually are asymmetrical (one half does not match other half)

Border Irregularity:
Noncancerous moles usually have even, smooth borders. Melanoma tumors generally have ragged or notched borders.

Color:
Noncancerous moles usually are a single shade of tan or brown. Melanoma tumors have several shades and can turn red, blue, or white.

Diameter:
Noncancerous moles generally are smaller than one quarter inch. Melanoma tumors often are larger than one quarter inch.

Evolving:
Melanomas change in size, shape, color, elevation, texture, and other traits, and can develope symptoms such as bleeding, itching and crusting.

In addition to looking for the ABCDEs, compare each mole to the surrounding moles. Noncancerous moles resemble each other. Melanomas look or feel different than the others.

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