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How Can I check Myself for Skin Cancer?
Research shows that regular skin self-exams could save 4,500 lives annually. And there's new hope
if you've already had malignant melanoma. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering made news with a vaccine
that will one day immunize those who have had melanoma against recurrences of the cancer; it will also
help protect those with a genetic predisposition. "The exact role of heredity in melanoma is unclear,"
says Dr. Houghton, the chief researcher in the vaccine study. "However, heredity is a factor in one
in 20 persons with melanoma, and you can inherit a melanoma gene."
How often you should perform skin self-exams depends on how high your risk is. Here's how to do one:
- After showering, check yourself in a well-lighted room using a full-length mirror and a
- Start by checking moles and birthmarks you've had since birth. Look for changes, especially a
new mole or skin discoloration, a sore that does not heal, or any change in the size, shape,
texture, or color of an existing mole.
- Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror. Then raise your arms and look at
your left and right sides.
- Bend your elbows and look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms, and upper arms.
- Examine the back, front and sides of your legs. Look between the buttocks and around the
- Sit and closely examine your feet, including the toenails, soles, and spaces between the toes.
- Look at your face, neck, ears, and scalp. Use a comb or hair dryer to move your hair so
that you can see better. Or get someone else to check your scalp for you.
- If you find anything suspicious, visit a dermatologist right away and ask for a full-body exam.
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Date of Last Update: 07/27/12