Early detection of skin cancers — particularly melanomas — is crucial to treatment. You can help protect yourself with regular at-home body inspections, says Dr. Melissa Schwarzschild of Richmond Dermatology & Laser Specialists in Richmond, Va. "You can be proactive and alleviate anxiety," she says.
Do regular inspections. Check all of your moles about every six months, especially if you have lots of them or have a personal or family history of skin cancer. See a dermatologist once a year for a routine full-body check.
Get to know your moles. Know their location, size and color.
Look for new or changing moles. It's normal to develop new moles into your early 20s, but not beyond. Pay attention to any new growths or moles that have changed in size, color or shape.
Take pictures. If you have lots of moles, keeping up with potential changes is difficult. One good idea: take photographs every six to 12 months; save and date the images on a computer and review as needed. You may find a "scary" mole has always been there — or that it is in fact new.
Beware of pink or black. Normal moles and other benign skin growths typically are varying shades of tan to brown. Melanomas may be black or less commonly pink, while other skin cancers tend to be pink and are often scaly. See your dermatologist if you notice a pink or black lesion.
Check hidden spots. Don't overlook the soles of your feet or your genital area; ask a partner or friend to check your back, and have your hairdresser inspect your scalp. Skin cancers can appear even in areas where the sun doesn't shine.