September is Healthy Aging Month: Protect Your Skin

From Concorde Medical Group’s Dermatology Division:

Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of skin color. When skin cancer is caught early, it is highly treatable. You do not need x-rays or tests to prevent skin cancer, but doctors recommend a self-skin exam once a month and an annual skin exam.

How do I perform a self skin exam?

According to the American Cancer Society, a skin self-exam is best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You can use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see, such as the backs of your thighs. A spouse, partner, or close friend or family member may be able to help you with these exams, especially for hard-to-see areas like your back or scalp.

The first time you examine your skin, spend time carefully going over the entire surface. Learn the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks on your skin so you’re familiar with what is normal. Be sure to show your doctor any areas that concern you or take good close up photos of the area to show your doctor.

The best time to do a skin self-exam is after a bath or shower.

Follow these step-by-step instructions to examine your skin:

Face the mirror

Check your face, ears, neck, chest, belly, and under breasts.

Check your underarm areas, the sides of your arms, the tops and palms of your hands, in between your fingers, and under your fingernails.

Sit down

Check the front of your thighs, shins, tops of your feet, in between your toes, and under your toenails.

Now use a hand mirror to look at the bottoms of your feet, your calves, and the backs of your thighs, first checking one leg and then the other.

Use the hand mirror to check your buttocks, genital area, lower and upper back, and the back of your neck and ears. Or it may be easier to look at your back in the wall mirror using a hand mirror.

Use a comb or hair dryer to part your hair so that you can check your scalp.

What do I look for in a self-skin exam?

Some of the more common ways in which skin cancers can appear include:

  • A new, expanding, or changing growth, spot, or bump on the skin
  • A sore that bleeds and/or doesn’t heal after several weeks
  • A rough or scaly red patch, which might crust or bleed
  • A wart-like growth
  • A mole (or other spot on the skin) that’s new or changing in size, shape, or color
  • A mole with an odd shape, irregular borders, or areas of different colors

It is important to understand that these are not the only ways skin cancer can appear. When something is not normal, an exam by a dermatologist can catch problems early.

What should I do if I find something abnormal?

When you’re looking at your skin and see anything that concerns you, especially something that has just appeared or has changed recently, be sure to have it checked by a doctor.

If you can’t see the doctor right away, take good close-up photos of the area so your doctor can see if the area is changing. If the doctor suspects you might have skin cancer, they will do exams and tests to find out.

We’re here to help…

If you or someone you know needs to schedule a skin exam, or if you have any questions, contact our Dermatology department directly by calling (212) 599-2596.