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Preparing for your Yearly Skin Exam

It’s Mole Patrol Time!

“I’ve got a mole WHERE?!” This is a common phrase uttered during full body skin exams. Sure, skin exams might seem scary and make you feel vulnerable, but seeing all of your moles can be really hard to do by yourself. If you are like me, bending and twisting to see all of my nooks and crannies isn’t as easy as it used to be. This is why I count on having my full body skin exams, or mole patrol as i like to call it, yearly.  It’s not a secret, full body skin exams save lives.

Here’s the deal: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that all adults see a doctor every year to have a professional skin exam (sometimes more often if you are high risk.) Kids are not excluded from this. Especially if there is a strong family history of melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer). Establishing a baseline is helpful and allows a dermatologist to monitor changes in moles as the child grows. Melanoma is on the rise for women in their 20s. I particularly stress yearly skin exams for anyone over the age of 20. Skin cancer, for the most part, is treatable if detected early.

Don’t think you are off the hook if you have darker skin tones. All races and ethnicities may develop skin cancer and so this exam is recommended yearly for everyone.

So what does a full body exam entail? Here are some helpful tips to remember before you come in for your exam:

-Before you see your doctor check yourself out. Take inventory of any spots that seem unusual to you or may be irritating you. Trust your instincts. You know your body better than anyone.

-Remove toenail and fingernail polish. Skin cancers can appear in the nails, so it’s always good to have them examined.

-Do not wear make-up. This will ensure we can get the best look at your skin.

-Try to not be nervous. The exam is generally quick and easy. You may be sitting or laying down during the exam, and you will be covered with a drape and/or gown. The drape or gown is moved as we examine each area. Because skin cancer can occur even on areas not exposed to the sun, the provider will examine you from every angle. If you feel uncomfortable, speak up. We will listen.

Remember everything you need to learn you learned in kindergarten? This might not be entirely accurate, but the ABCDs does apply to skin cancer awareness. Not only is having a full body skin exam done by a professional important, self-examinations are too. Look for A=asymmetry, B=irregular borders, C=multiple colors, D=diameter, bigger than a pencil eraser. These can be signs a lesion is changing. The better you know your skin, the faster you can identify a problem.

A great way to remember to follow up yearly is to plan to strip down to your birthday suit in your birthday month….It’s Mole Patrol time!



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