Spotting it early

Most skin cancers can be cured if they are caught early. The secret to early detection is knowing your skin like the back of your hand. We may be familiar with every mole and blemish on our faces, but what about the areas that aren't so easy to see? A monthly skin self-exam is a great way to get to know all of the skin you're in.

Want to start doing skin self-exams? Here's how:

  • Start in a well-lit area. You'll need a couple of mirrors (usually one larger mirror and one smaller, hand-held one) to see those difficult-to-view areas, such as your back. Or you can ask someone to help.
  • Examine the skin on all parts of your body. To make sure you don't forget a part, it helps to follow a routine. For example, you could first look at the front of your body, then the back, and then the sides. Next, you can move on to areas such as the hands and feet (including between fingers and toes), your genital and buttock area (including between the buttocks), behind your ears, and your neck. Don't forget to check the scalp and skin folds.
  • Get to know your skin's usual moles and birthmarks. Then, re-examine your skin every month. Report any changes or anything that looks unusual to your doctor. Get a yearly skin check-up by your doctor.

What should you watch for when examining moles on your skin? Follow the "ABCDE" of skin cancer:

  • A (asymmetry): This means the mole is not the same shape on both sides.
  • B (border): Moles with jagged or notched borders may be a sign of skin cancer.
  • C (colour): Moles that change colour may be skin cancer warning signs.
  • D (diameter): Moles larger than 6 mm across may be a sign of skin cancer.
  • E (elevation): Moles that are raised above the surface of the skin may be a sign of skin cancer.

Also, if you notice changes such as a sore that does not seem to heal, bleeding or itchy moles, or any other skin changes that worry you, see your doctor.

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