Health-Related Issues -- Skin Exam

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Approximately one million people will develop skin cancer each year in the United States. The most common types of skin cancers are basal cell and squamous cell. These types of skin cancers usually occur in older people. These cancers grow slowly and almost all of these cancers can be cured. Melanoma is a more aggressive cancer which requires earlier treatment to cure the cancer. Melanoma may occur at any age, although it is rare in childhood.

Skin cancers have been related to excessive sun exposure. Persons with fair skin have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than persons with dark skin. Persons with abnormal moles (dysplasic nevi) are at increased risk for melanoma. Persons at risk for skin cancer should have skin examinations done regularly by a health care professional. They should also check their own skin monthly for signs of skin cancer.

  • Asymmetry - one half of the mole is not like the other half
  • Border irregularity - the edges of the mole are ragged, notched, or blurred
  • Color varied - the color of the mole is not the same all over, with shades of black, brown, tan, etc.
  • Diameter large - the mole is wider that a pencil eraser (6 mm), or is increasing in size

Possible signs of skin cancer

Examine your body monthly for the ABCD signs listed above (in front of a mirror or using a hand mirror)

  • unusual sore, lump, or blemish
  • sore that will not heal
  • bleeding, scaling, or crusting
  • itching, tenderness, or discomfort
  • change in the color of a mole
  • increase in the size of a mole

Skin Examination

  • Look at your face, neck and ears
  • Look at your body from front to back, then right and left sides with your arms raised
  • Look at both sides of your arms, underarms, and hands
  • Look at the front of your legs, top and bottom of your feet, and between your toes
  • Look at the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror
  • Look at your back, buttocks, and back of your legs with a hand mirror

** Consult a health care provider if you find any of the danger or warning signs of cancer.  Remember that the majority of skin problems are not cancer.