Skin Cancer – How to Effectively Check Your Skin
We’ve all had those days when we notice a mole suddenly looks a little…weird. Maybe it seems bigger than normal, has swollen or changed colour. Or perhaps this mole has always been the oddball hanging out on your skin – always vaguely worrying, but never enough to do anything about it.
Most of the time, when we worry about odd blemishes a quick trip to the doctor reassures us that there’s nothing to worry about.
Sometimes a funny looking mole is just a funny looking mole.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, moles aren’t actually the most likely hideouts for a deadly melanoma. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong to double check something that looks suspicious. But there’s a lot more to effectively monitoring your skin for signs of skin cancer than you might think.
We know it’s a worrying subject, and we want you to be safe, so here’s how to check your skin for sun damage and what to do if you’re worried about skin cancer…
Keep An Eye Out For New Lesions…
There’s been a surge of understanding in recent years when it comes to the impact of the sun on your skin, and the danger of cancer. However, while most of us are now aware that danger exists, there’s still a lot of misunderstanding surrounding what potential skin issues actually look like, and what you should genuinely be concerned about.
A recent review of the research on skin cancer, involving over 20,000 cases of melanomas, has revealed that only 29% of patients had skin cancers that started in pre-existing moles.
So, while you may have always been bothered by that weird looking mole on your leg, or shoulder, the likelihood is that it’s nothing to worry about – particularly if it’s always looked like that!
Instead, the research shows that what we should truly be concerned about are new lesions on the skin. These accounted for 71% of melanoma cases included in the review.
Perhaps most surprising is the fact that skin which includes natural moles and blemishes is actually less at risk than other areas, which are more likely to develop a melanoma.
In addition to being more likely to form on ‘virgin’ skin, melanomas also tend to be more aggressive if they don’t develop in a pre-existing mole.
Better Safe Than Sorry…
While moles have got a lot of bad press which has led to people being very concerned about them and less concerned about other, genuinely more threatening aspects of skincare, it is still possible than an atypical mole could develop into a melanoma. Which means that it’s important to get any worrying areas of skin, including moles, checked out.
The danger with fixating on moles is that other areas of the skin are ignored. For effective skincare it’s important to monitor the skin across your whole body, regardless of existing blemishes, and look out for the development of anything new or unusual.
In much the same way that it’s important to check for changes in our breasts or testicles, the skin is equally important to monitor.
If you do notice anything concerning, get it checked – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
What To Do If You’re Worried About Skin Cancer…
So, you know you need to be on the lookout for skin cancer, but what does that mean exactly?
You’re looking for changes to your skin.
So if the weird mole on your face has been with you since childhood, the odds are it’s nothing to worry about, even if it’s raised or really oddly shaped.
If, on the other hand, you had a perfectly round, regular, unworrying mole since you were young and suddenly it’s grown, changed shape, or become raised or discoloured, you should get it looked at.
Here are a few quick steps you can take to effectively monitor yourself for signs of skin cancer:
- Get comfortable and familiar with your own skin – if you don’t really know it, judging if something is new will be tricky!
- Examine your skin regularly looking for changes.
- Have a friend, family member, or your other half to check your back for any irregularities.
- Get an annual checkup with a dermatologist, particularly if there are any areas that have been flagged previously as potentially problematic.
- Get sun-smart! Apply an effective sunscreen regularly, wear a sun hat and sunglasses, stay in the shade when possible, remember that sun protection is important all year round, learn the truth about some of the big sunscreen myths and how UV actually affects your skin!
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