At-Home Skin Checks: What to Look For
Caring for your skin extends beyond daily moisturizing and cleansing. Your skin is the largest organ, and as such, it needs extra care to make sure it’s healthy. One crucial part of skin care is at-home skin checks.
Skin checks should be a consistent part of your self-care routine, performed once a month in an intentional way. Early detection is incredibly important when combating skin cancer. New or changing lesions or moles can be a cause for concern, and the best way to take note and track such growth is by checking your skin regularly in-between your yearly dermatologist appointments.
When performing self-examinations, be sure to check every part of your body - from scalp to soles - back and front. Use a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to help see all angles of your body. For hard to see places, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist, or enlist the help of a parent or partner.
What should you look for? Simply remember your ABC’s!
A stands for asymmetry. If you have a spot or other area on your body that is not shaped the same on all sides, it may be something to get checked by your doctor.
B stands for border. Irregularly defined borders or margins of a spot can be worrisome.
C stands for color. Look for variations in the color of the spot.
D stands for diameter. Anything greater than 6mm in diameter should be checked. This would be about the size of a pencil eraser.
E stands for enlargement or evolution. Has the spot changed in size, color, or shape since your previous check? Also, look for other signs like itching, bleeding, or pain.
Beyond the alphabet acronym system, there is an additional criteria that is referred to as an “Ugly Duckling.” Take a step back and look at your skin in a more holistic sense than on a spot-by-spot basis. Does the spot look different than those around it? If it does, keep an eye on it and see if it continues to grow or change, and be sure to point it out at your next dermatologist appointment.
Getting a second pair of eyes, such as a partner or your doctor, is also important; when you see a spot every day, it’s hard to tell when it’s changing or growing. If you notice a spot that needs an extra look, don’t be embarrassed to ask. Remember: skin cancer has a higher chance of successful removal and curing when caught early.
Monthly at-home skin checks are only one part of skin care prevention that should become a routine. Annual dermatology appointments, consistently using sunscreen, refraining from tanning beds, and wearing protective clothing is also important for consistent skin care.