While we always recommend visiting the Delaware dermatologists at Premier Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery for an annual skin exam, you can also perform monthly routine self-skin exams on your own. Routine skin examinations are important for patients with multiple moles, significant exposure to the sun over their lifetime, or those with a family history of skin cancer like melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, or squamous cell carcinoma. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US and an estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. To avoid becoming a part of this statistic, the Delaware dermatologists at Premier Derm recommend conducting a self-skin examination every month, following these basic steps:
During this examination, note any moles, blemishes, or birthmarks from the top of your head to your toes. Use a small ruler to measure how big these marks are. Also note changes in color, size, or shape of these markings or any sore that does not heal. Use paper or pictures to document these changes. If you find any changes in size, color, or shape of any previously noted mole or other skin markings, or if you develop a sore that does not heal, see your Delaware dermatologists as soon as possible. This is especially true of itching or bleeding spots. Remember the ABCDEs for moles!
A thorough self-skin exam requires the following simple supplies: a bright light, a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, two chairs or stools, a blow-dryer, paper, and a pencil.
Step 1 – Examine your face, especially your nose, lips, mouth and ears — front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.
Step 2 – Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow-dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can.
Step 3 – Check your hands: palms and backs, between the fingers, and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both the front and back of your forearms.
Step 4 – Scan your arms. Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Don’t forget the underarms.
Step 5 – Next, focus on your neck, chest, and torso. BE sure to lift your breasts to view the undersides.
Step 6 – With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back and any part of the back of your upper arms you could not view in step 4.
Step 7 – Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks, and backs of both legs.
Step 8 – Sit down and prop each leg in turn on the other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine your genitals. Check the front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin. Then, finish with ankles and feet, including soles, toes, and nails without polish.