Skin Self Examinations are so important with 200 new cases of skin cancer being diagonised in the UK every day. My family was one of them 4 years ago. Both my husband and myself have a number of moles, I’m very fair skinned and never go brown very easily. I can remember going on holiday with girlfriends and they only had to look at the sun to go brown while I would go pink and then slightly coloured and that was it. We all do stupid things when we are young we all think we are invincible and it will never happen to me attitude (that’s normal). But as we get older we realise that we are not and things can happen when you least expect it.
That’s what happened to my husband a mole turned black, so luckily he was wise enough to go and see his GP who refered him to a dermatologist. At his appointment he was fully checked and she said that the black mole was nothing to worry about but she would remove it. But another mole she found she was not happy with. She removed it straight away and it was sent off for biopsy, within a few days we got the dreaded news that it was a aggressive maligant melanoma. He was rushed back in and operated on within a week and had a large part of skin removed around where the cancer was. The next few weeks we went through hell and back, he went through so many tests MRI scans, blood tests, you name it he had it. Thank god he had looked and examined his skin otherwise I might have been telling you the worst.
Checking your skin regularly for signs of any changes, anything that looks abnormal, or any new skin growth, is important to your health – and could even save your life. Doctors recommend doing a skin self-exam at least once a month, primarily looking for changes in the skin that could be signs of skin cancer. After all, who is more familiar with your body than you are – and who better to know what looks right, and what doesn’t? If there is anything that you are not happy with then go to your GP and get it checked out.
Start by finding a place that is bright enough with good lighting, and stand in front of a full-length mirror. Then start with your head and work down, looking for the following:
- New moles, growths, lesions or blemishes
- Any growth, particularly a mole, which has changed in size, texture or colour. That includes moles that are asymmetrical, have uneven edges, or have changed in appearance
- Any type of lesions that refuse to heal
- Any type of growth at all that looks different from other ones on your skin
When performing a skin self-exam, be sure to look at your entire body, including your back, arms, legs – even between your toes! If there are hard-to-see areas, ask a spouse. Some people are more at risk for skin cancer than others. If you fall into this category, you may want to keep a journal of your skin exams, writing down what you see to make it easier to keep track of changes. People who are most at risk are those who:
- Have a history of skin cancer in their family
- Are older
- Have a weakened immune system
- Have had excessive exposure from ultra-violet (UV) rays, either from the sun or tanning beds
- Have had skin cancer already in the past
- Are Caucasian, especially with fair skin, red or blonde hair, and burn easily – although people from all ethnic groups can get skin cancer
From my families experience we have all changed our attitude to the sun, the damage is most likely to happen when we are children or young adults so make them aware too of the danger of the sun. Let them play outside as the sun has benefits too, but only at certain times of the day and make them wear t-shirts, suncreams, hats etc. I have spent the last four years researching sun creams and what effect sun exposure has on your skin which is now all on my website www.pureandgentle.com I will over the coming months write some blogs about staying safe in the sun which I hope you will find helpful.