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Skin cancer can be caught early by checking the skin for certain changes. This is called skin cancer screening. Skin cancer is more treatable when found early.
Some childhood cancer survivors are at risk for a second cancer. The most common second cancer in childhood cancer survivors is skin cancer. Patients who have had radiation therapy or who have certain gene changes are at higher risk.
A mole or skin lesion is the most common sign of skin cancer. Doctors recommend regular skin exams to find these changes.
There are 2 methods of skin cancer screening.
Ask for a full-body skin exam when you visit your primary care provider for a checkup. This should be done at least once a year. A national study of doctors showed they are more likely to screen when their patient requests it.
You can also see a dermatologist for skin cancer screening. A dermatologist is a doctor trained to diagnose and treat skin problems. The American Academy of Dermatology sponsors free SPOTme® skin cancer screenings.
You should perform skin self-exams each month.
To do a skin self-exam, look closely at your whole body, front and back. Use a full-length mirror and hand mirror. Have a person you trust check hard-to-see areas.
Make sure to check:
There are 2 types of skin cancer: non-melanoma skin cancer and melanoma.
Non-melanoma skin cancer includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Common signs and symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer:
A lump that is small, smooth, shiny, pale, or waxy
A lump that is firm and red
A sore or lump that bleeds or develops a crust or a scab
A flat, red spot that is rough, dry, or scaly and may become itchy or tender
A red or brown patch that is rough or scaly
Images sourced from the website of the National Cancer Institute (https://www.cancer.gov).
Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has a free body mole map to help you keep track of moles. A record helps detect spots that are growing, bleeding, itching, or changing in any way.
For information on how to conduct a self-exam, visit the AAD’s Detect Skin Cancer section.
If you notice any signs or symptoms, contact a health care provider for a follow-up exam.
Together does not endorse any branded product mentioned in this article.
Reviewed: January 2023