Sk!n Dr Sk!n Dr

How to effectively examine your skin for skin cancer this winter

A simple look is all it takes to save a life… Steps on how to effectively examine your skin for skin cancer this winter

Hope it’s been a spooky Halloween Hello readers and you’re looking forward to the fireworks this bonfire night. So the clocks have gone back, the days are shorter and we are wrapping up warm to fend off the cold…yes winter is almost upon us! Amidst waking up, a busy work/social life and getting back home in the dark in our wrapped up woolen chic we often forget to stop and take a look at our skin. After the sun exposure during the summer months it is often common for lesions to grow/change over the winter months. Our skin is not on display as much during the winter months as it is during the summer; this can sometimes mean that harmful skin lesions, which may be changing may get overlooked.

In the last month there has been excellent research published in the field of melanoma. We have heard from research conducted at Kings College London that having more than 11 moles on your arms may increase your lifetime risk of developing melanoma and a new virus based melanoma treatment has been approved for melanoma in the U.S.A opening new exciting avenues for treatment.

With all this advancement in science what remains crucial in the fight against skin cancer remains early detection by a careful and thorough skin examination. We know that most people self detect their skin cancer. So lets not miss any skin cancer this winter…

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5 simple steps on how to effectively self examine your skin:

1. Recruit a friend or a family member…You don’t have to do it alone!: I often get asked in clinic “well it’s all very well me examining my skin but I can’t see my back or my feet” Well the trick is you don’t have too! Someone else who doesn’t see your skin everyday can once a month look over your skin just to make sure nothing’s changing and guess what they can check your back and all the areas its difficult for us to check ourselves.

2. Keep a record…Maintain a mole count: There is new British research out which predicts higher melanoma risk in those with more than 11 moles on their arms! Nowadays pretty much everyone has a smart phone, which can take pictures. If you find a mole or a skin blemish which just isn’t healing then all you need to do is take a picture an save it. Revisit looking at the mole/skin lesion 1 month later and see if it’s changed. This way even if you do need to see your dermatologist or doctor about it then you have a photographic record of what it looked like and they can give you a more accurate opinion.

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3. Look under the nail polish: We all love nail art and with gel nails and acrylics in vogue it’s hard to know what’s going on under those pretty nails. Clearing your nail varnish every 3 months or so may help reveal your nail health. Subungual melanomas and other skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma and precancerous lesions can occur in the nail unit, therefore a full skin check should include a good look at your nails without the funky nail polish!

4. Dark areas on our bodies can hide dark spots: Don’t be afraid to look in those dark areas such as through your hair on your scalp, your gums and inside your mouth, your eyes (get your eyes tested regularly), and your groin, vulva and vagina. Melanoma and other skin cancers can affect these areas and can appear as a dark spot, crusting bleeding or growing skin lesion, or a mole that is changing. If you look regularly you will notice a change. Accessorise these exams with a hand held mirror and a pen torch! It will help you see a whole lot more.

5. Now you know where to look and how to look on your skin as a part of your winter monthly skin care regimen…what do you look for?
Any new mole appearing after the age of 40, multiple moles that look irregular or a mole that is changing in shape, colour, outline or growing rapidly should be seen by your Dermatologist or doctor and evaluated clinically. Any other skin lesion which is growing or just not going away for three months or more should have a name put to it i.e. a diagnosis made by a doctor.

So this winter I encourage you all to look fabulous in your winter woolies but do look beneath your clothes just once a month. Keeping an observant eye on your skin is the first step to taking care of it as it takes care of you…

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