Newsletter Vol. 3 No. 1 - Skin Cancer Warning Signs

In this newsletter, we'll talk about the important habit of examining your skin, and the skin of loved ones, to help detect and prevent skin cancers.

Anyone can develop melanoma. It's important to be AWARE and periodically perform a complete body check to look for symptoms of the disease. If melanoma is detected and treated early, the cure rate is usually high. Knowing your own skin, especially its imperfections, freckles, and moles, will help you notice changes.

The recommended frequency of self-exams and medical exams depends on your risk of getting the disease. For people with a personal or family history of melanoma or dysplastic nevi, Catherine Poole of the Melanoma International Foundation and Dr. Dupont Guerry at the University of Pennsylvania recommend monthly self-exams, as well as frequent (quarterly for people at very high risk) exams by a dermatologist or other specially trained physician.

Men, in particular, should be encouraged to do body checks, asking someone to help if needed. According to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (Koh, H., D. Miller, A. Geller, R. Clapp, M. Mercer, and R. Lew, 1992), melanomas are most often diagnosed in men, yet men are less likely than women to spot them or seek treatment.

In Australia, the number of deaths caused by melanoma has declined, a direct result of an education campaign that included information on body checks. A number of organizations provide guidance on performing body checks, including the American Academy of Dermatology and The Skin Cancer Foundation.

After you do a body check, write your observations in a notebook with the date. If possible, take photographs. This is especially important for those at high risk for melanoma, those who are monitoring changes for a doctor, and those who are helping to monitor others.

Get in the habit of examining your skin and the skin of those you love. It's easy to do, and it could save a life!