Skin is the largest organ of the body, the best defence to protect against external injuries, a shield that maintains body temperature, and an armour that prevents loss of body fluids. Regular skin checks are the best way to protect your future health.
Each year, more new cases of skin cancer are being diagnosed than all other cancers put together. Because our continent is located near the Antarctic ozone hole, we are more exposed to UV radiation – the main cause of a majority of skin cancers.
Have you noticed a suspicious mole on your skin? Or think an already existing mole has changed in size, shape or colour? Or do you have a mole that is itchy or bleeds? All these signs could lead to skin cancer. However, most skin cancers, if caught early enough, are curable.
Start with these three simple practices:
Monthly self-examination of your skin
Perform a thorough self-examination of your skin every month. Examine your skin right after you have taken a bath, while your skin is still wet.
Stand in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lit room and check for any aberrations on the skin – look out for moles, growths, or lesions. Make a note of their size, colour, and shape, and check every month to make sure they haven’t grown or changed shape. Use a hand-held mirror for closer views.
Inspect hidden areas like beneath your fingernails and toenails, between toes, behind ears, private parts, back of the legs and sole of feet.
Ask a family member to help check those hard-to-see areas like your back and scalp.
If you notice any changes in the shape, size, and colour of spots then make an appointment with your dermatologist for a more thorough evaluation. Also, make note of the emergence of any new moles and show them to the dermatologist immediately.
What to look for in a mole
The skin cancer foundation has provided a self-check tool for the warning signs of skin cancer – ABCDE.
- A – Check if the mole is asymmetrical, i.e. whether one half of the mole does not match the other half.
- B – Watch out for patchy, ragged or uneven mole borders.
- C – Look for moles that have more than one colour.
- D – Check if the diameter of the mole is larger than a pencil eraser.
- E – Inspect for elevated moles, i.e. moles that are raised off the skin.
Also look out for spots that are itchy, irritable or bleeding.
Schedule annual skin checks with your dermatologist
Not every mole or skin aberration has the potential to become a skin cancer. However, regular skin checks are important for people who are at higher risk of skin cancer. People who have had skin cancer before or with a strong family history of skin cancer, those who have fair skin, a weakened immune system or have long-term skin problems have an increased chance of getting skin cancer.
An expert dermatologist may be able to tell you the difference between moles – whether they are cancerous or not. Including skin checks as part of your annual health check-ups can help find many skin cancers early and save your life.
If you wish to schedule a regular skin check-up book an appointment with Dr Targett at Advanced Cosmetic Medicine (ACM) and Laser Clinic. Dr Targett is a specialist in primary care dermatology and dermoscopy. For more details click here.