Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Coast is Clear - A testament to skin exams

As many of you know, I went in to the dermatologist for my regular full body skin exams and had two suspicious moles excised and sent to the pathologist for biopsy.

Three weeks later, the report has come back and the coast is clear. The moles were/are benign. I will be going back to the dermatologist on May 3rd for surgery to remove two additional moles on my back, one on my leg, and one on my scalp. As I told my best friend, I'm confident that these moles will also come back benign (non-cancerous). Isn't it nice to have peace of mind?

So, to all readers, I strongly urge you start performing your monthly self skin exams and visit your dermatologist at least once a year. You, and your loved ones, will be glad you did. As national Skin Cancer Awareness month approaches, now is a good time to make that commitment to be proactive about your dermatologic health.

Not sure how to properly perform a self skin exam? Here's the process, as explained by the American Academy of Dermatology.

Step-by-Step Self-Examination
What you will need:

* A bright light
* A full-length mirror
* A hand mirror
* 2 chairs or stools
* A blow dryer
* Body maps
* A pencil

1. Examine your face, especially the nose, lips, mouth, and ears — front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.

2. Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow-dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can.

3. Check your hands carefully: palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both front and back of your forearms.

4. Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Don’t forget the underarms.

5. Next focus on the neck, chest, and torso. Women should lift breasts to view the underside.

6. With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back, and any part of the back of your upper arms you could not view in step 4.

7. Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks, and backs of both legs.

8. Sit down; prop each leg in turn on the other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin; ankles, tops of feet, between toes and under toenails. Examine soles of feet and heels.

What to look for?

A = Asymmetry: melanoma lesions are typically asymmetrical, whereas benign moles are typically round and symmetrical.

B = Border: melanoma lesions frequently have uneven or irregular borders (ie, ragged or notched edges), whereas benign moles have smooth, even borders.

C = Color: melanoma lesions often contain multiple shades of brown or black, whereas benign moles are usually a single shade of brown.

D = Diameter: early melanoma lesions are often more than 6 mm in diameter, whereas benign moles are usually less than 6 mm in diameter.

E = Elevation. If a typically flat mole, becomes raised this is also a cause for concern. (E also stands for evolution - if a mole is changing, or a new mole appears, call your dermatologist immediately).

You can also learn more about this by getting your own copy of ONLY SKIN DEEP? An Essential Guide to Skin Cancer Programs and Resources today on,, or

Here's to checking ourselves (our skin) out!