Take a moment to check your skin regularly for potential issues. A routine full-body skin exam can help catch early signs of skin cancer and other concerns.
Consider looking at your entire skin, not just your face. Regular self-exams every three to six months are recommended. Use a full-length mirror, a handheld mirror for hard-to-see spots, and a magnifying glass for smaller areas. If possible, ask someone for assistance to ensure you don't miss anything.
Here's a simple guide for your self-check:
- Examine your face, neck, ears (especially behind them), and scalp. Use a comb or blow dryer to improve visibility.
- Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror. Raise your arms and check your left and right sides.
- Bend your elbows and carefully inspect your fingernails, palm, back of each hand, forearms, and upper arms.
- Check the back, front, and sides of your legs. Also, examine the skin on your buttocks and genital area.
- Sit down and examine your feet, including the soles, spaces between your toes, and toenails.
Note any new or questionable moles, sores, painful or itchy spots, raised or firm bumps, dark flaky patches, and black or brown lines along fingernails and toenails. Pay attention to changes in firmness, as sometimes we feel something troubling before we see it.
Record the date of your self-exams and document findings, including exact locations. Take photos with your phone for reference. After six to eight weeks, reevaluate trouble spots. If they haven't improved or have changed color, size, become painful, or easily bleed, consider seeking professional advice.
As time passes, cosmetic changes like wrinkles, lines, bags under the eyes, age spots, raised rough lesions, and sagging skin may appear. Various cosmetic treatments, including injections, chemical peels, freezing sprays, laser treatments, prescription creams, and surgery, can address these concerns. Consult with a specialist to explore available options.
Keep an eye out for signs of skin cancer, particularly melanoma. Follow the ABCDE guide to recognize possible melanoma, and be aware of changes in existing moles or the appearance of new ones.
Additionally, during your self-exam, monitor freckles, especially large, irregular ones, as they may indicate a specific form of melanoma. Watch out for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in sun-exposed areas, as these are types of skin cancer that are usually slow-growing and treatable if caught early. Actinic keratoses (AKs) are rough, gritty growths that can appear in different colors. While initially not dangerous, have them checked, as they may lead to squamous cell carcinoma if left unattended.