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Healthy You

Could It Be Skin Cancer? What to Look for During Your Self-Exam

Thursday, June 15, 2023 9:07 AM

Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer, accounting for nearly half of all cancers in the U.S. And despite increased awareness of causes, risk factors, and methods of prevention, the rates of skin cancer, including the three major types—basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma—continue to climb.

Due in part to the use of tanning beds, rates of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, are especially high in young women in their 20s and 30s.

While prevention should be the priority—limiting exposure to sunlight, using sunscreen, and avoiding the use of tanning beds—early detection is the next best thing. If detected early, skin cancer is almost always curable.

Britt Hanson, DO, Medical Oncology at NorthShore, shares some of her tips for identifying skin cancer, including what you should keep an eye out for during regular self-checks.

  • Have a full-body exam done by a physician. Your physician can ensure that your existing moles, spots, or freckles are normal or recommend the precautionary removal of any suspicious ones. 
  • Perform monthly self-exams. After a skin examination by a physician, get in the habit of doing monthly self-exams. Use a full-length mirror to examine your moles and freckles, looking for any changes to existing moles or the development of new ones.
  • Remember your ABCDEs. If any of the moles on your body show signs of the ABCDEs, see a physician immediately.
    • Asymmetry: One half does not mirror the other
    • Border: Edges are jagged, blurred, or irregular
    • Color: Changes in color or if a mole is various shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red
    • Diameter: If the diameter is larger than the eraser of a pencil
    • Evolving: Any changes in size, color, or shape 

What precautions do you take to reduce your risk of skin cancer?

Learn more about melanoma.