How to check your skin for signs of cancer
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Wednesday, May 28, 2014 8:59AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 28, 2014 9:34AM EDT
A new report from the Canadian Cancer Society finds that the incidence rate of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer—is rising for both men and women.
According to estimates in the report released Wednesday, 6,500 new cases of melanoma and 76,100 cases of non-melanoma skin cancers will be diagnosed in Canada in 2014. The report also estimates 1,490 deaths due to skin cancer this year.
The most important risk factor for developing skin cancer is exposure to the sun or ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds and sunlamps.
Melanoma is a hereditary cancer, but anyone can be susceptible to the disease. People with fair skin, red hair and who develop sunburns faster have the greatest risk for melanoma, Surgical Oncologist Dr. Frances Wright told CTV's Canada AM. People with a family history of melanoma are also at risk, she said.
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends people regularly check their skin for any changes and report them to their doctor.
Here's a summary of how to check your skin and what to look for, according to the Canadian Cancer society.
How to check your skin
- Find a well-lit room and use a mirror to look closely at your entire body
- Raise your arms and look at both the right and left sides of your body
- Check the underarm areas, both sides of your arms and hands, each finger, fingernail, and the skin between your fingers
- Check the back and front sides of your legs, the genital area and between the buttocks
- Use a full-length mirror, a hand mirror and a comb to check your scalp, face and neck
- Examine the tops and soles of your feet, along with the toenails, and the spaces between your toes
- Ask your partner or a person you trust to help you look for the hard-to-see areas
What to look for
Patients should look for and note any of the following:
- Any new growth on the skin including: 1) pale or pearly nodules that may grow larger and crust and 2) red or pink patches that are scaly and don't heal
- New skin markings including moles, blemishes, discolouration or bumps
- Any change in the shape, colour, size or texture of an existing birthmark or mole
- Any sore that doesn't heal
- Any skin lesions which bleed, ooze, swell, itch or are red and bumpy
Frances recommends that doctors also perform a skin examination as part of patients’ annual physical.
During the skin examination, doctors can identify a potential melanoma by using the "ABCDE" rule.
The ABCDE rule is a general guideline to help doctors distinguish a melanoma from a normal mole. Here's what to look for when using the rule:
A= asymmetry (when one half of the mole is not symmetrical to the other half)
B= border irregularity (when the edge of the mole is ragged or squiggly)
C=colour variation (when different colours are present in the mole such as shades of tan, brown, black, blue, red, white or pink)
D=diameter (when a mole increases in size, is greater than 6 mm in diameter, or is greater than the size of pencil eraser)
E= elevation (when the mole is raised on the skin and has an uneven surface) or evolving (when the mole is growing or changing, itchy or spontaneously bleeds)
With files from The Canadian Cancer Society