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Skin Cancer Self-Examination (Skin Cancer)
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Skin Cancer Self-Examination

Jason K Rivers, BSc, FRCPC

Freckles, moles, and birthmarks are common, and almost all people have some of these features in varying degrees. Changes in the shape, color, size, or the outer edges can be warning signs of skin cancer.

Many forms of skin cancer grow extremely slowly, taking twenty or more years to develop. However, some melanomas can grow quickly. Early discovery is critical in recovery, and cancer that is discovered during its early stages can be treated. A simple self-examination that takes no longer than ten minutes, every three to six months could end up saving your life. This video on early detection can be seen at Skin Cancer Self-Examination.

Where to look:

  • Examine your head and face using mirrors. Don’t forget to examine your scalp, by moving your hair around.
  • Check the neck region, chest, and torso. If you are a woman, check under your breasts.
  • Examine the back side of your shoulders and neck using a second hand-held mirror. Your upper legs, back and buttocks should also be scoured.
  • Examine the hands and the nails.
  • Examine the lower legs and the foot. Don’t forget to check the heels and soles, and the nails.
  • Use a small mirror to check your genitals.

Look for:

  • Sores that don’t appear to heal
  • Unusual changes on the skin.
  • Small smooth lumps
  • Shiny, red or brown lumps
  • Rough or scaly red spots, usually rough

Watching your moles for warning signs of potential melanoma:

  • Sudden enlargement of moles
  • Continuous increase in mole size
  • Itchiness, mild tenderness or pain
  • Flat mole increasing in height
  • Smooth moles becoming scaly or rough. Erosion or oozing. Crusting, ulceration, and bleeding occur when the melanoma becomes more advanced.
  • Reddening of surrounding skin, development of swelling or blemishes.

Early detection of skin cancer is critical in treatment, before it spreads to other areas of your body. Check your body regularly, and contact your dermatologist if you suspect any warning signs of skin cancer.


moles,   self-examination,   skin cancer,