Mon General Hospital Dermatologist Mary Hall, MD
Would you ever think to look for signs of skin cancer on the soles of your feet or between your fingers? Would you know what to look for?
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and the vast majority of it is caused by sun exposure. But with screening and preventative care, most skin cancer can be avoided.
Mon General Hospital Dermatology’s Mary Hall, MD
, recommends annual skin cancer screenings. For patients with a personal or family history of skin cancer, she suggests screenings every six months.
Dr. Hall encourages incorporating a monthly mole check into your routine.
“If you do a self-check every month, you’ll notice the changes earlier,” said Dr. Hall.
The best time to do a skin self-exam is after a shower or bath. It’s important to look for changes when you do the self-exam.
- Check your skin in a room with a lot of light. Use both a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror, so that you can see your whole body.
- Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror.
- Raise your arms and look at your left and right sides. Women should look under their breasts.
- Examine the back and front of your legs. Also look between your buttocks and at your genital area.
- Check the fronts and backs of your hands and forearms carefully; this includes between the fingers and under the fingernails.
- Sit down and closely examine your feet. This includes the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also examine the nail bed of each toe.
- Look at your face, neck and scalp. You may want to use a comb or blow-dryer to move your hair as you look, so you can see your scalp more clearly.
Mole changes to look for during your self-check:
- Changes in mole color – this may mean a change from lighter to darker or dark to lighter.
- Border irregularities
If you notice any of these signs, contact your dermatologist or primary care physician for an appointment.
To help prevent skin cancer, Dr. Hall has the following suggestions:
- Wear a zinc or titanium dioxide sunscreen of 30 SPF or above daily.
- Do not use tanning beds.
- Apply sunscreen before putting on your clothing and 30 minutes before exposure. People often make the mistake of putting on their clothing then applying sunscreen around their clothing.
- While the spray-on sunscreen is often easier to apply, to ensure adequate coverage, be sure to rub it in.
- Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or more frequently if you are at the beach or a pool.
- Although many makeups have sunscreen, it does not offer adequate protection. Try using mineral sunscreen powders, which can be applied over make up.
- Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is when UV rays are the strongest.
- Wear broad-rimmed sun glasses to help protect against ocular melanoma.
Sunscreen is not recommended for infants younger than 6 months. Dr. Hall encourages the use of protective clothing, broad-brimmed hats and rash guards (UV-protection clothing).
For more information about skin cancer, visit healthlibrary.mongeneral.com.