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• Check your skin monthly and be on the lookout for new skin spots or
changes in existing spots. Visit your dermatologist regularly for a full-body skin examination.
Early detection can save your life
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. However, melanoma
is almost always curable in its early stages. Melanoma usually starts as a flat,
dark-colored spot that looks like a freckle. The edges are irregular and the
whole spot is most likely asymmetrical. There are often two or more colors
to the spot (gray, red, black and brown mixtures).
To help distinguish between normal moles and malignant melanoma, apply
the ABCD rule. Usually, melanomas share one or more of these criteria:
• Symmetrical shape
• Even coloration
• Even border
• Asymmetry: One half does not match the other.
• Border: irregular, ragged or blurred edge
• Color: multi-colored black, tan, gray, brown
and possibly blue, red and white
• Diameter: larger than 6 millimeters, or smaller but growing
The American Cancer Society recommends regular self-exams of moles
and freckles so that individuals can track any changes in their skin. It is
important to see a dermatologist if any growth, mole or discoloration appears
suddenly or begins to change, or if a sore does not heal. Early detection and
treatment are the best defense against skin cancer.
Perform a monthly self-exam
One of the best ways you can help take care of your skin is to perform a
monthly visual exam of your body. Just follow these easy steps every month
to identify any skin changes or new skin spots. And be sure to see your
doctor if you notice anything different from the previous month.
What you’ll need: a bright light, a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, two
chairs or stools and a blow-dryer.
1. Examine your head and face, using one or both mirrors. Use the blow-dryer to inspect your scalp.
2. Check your hands, including nails. In a full-length mirror, examine elbows,
arms, underarms, neck, chest and torso. Women: Check under breasts.
3. With your back to the mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back
of your neck, shoulders, upper arms, back, buttocks and legs.
4. Sitting down, check your legs and feet, including soles, heels and nails.
Make sure to ask your dermatologist about skin-cancer prevention, including
regular skin exams. To find out more about ways in which you can help in the
fight against skin cancer, visit