Just when you think the most annoying thing about being ginger is having to apply and reapply sunscreen when the sun is out (and when it’s not), there’s something else that blows it out of the water: checking your skin for signs of skin cancer.
Redheads are at a much higher risk than non-redheads, so while it’s a tedious and somewhat daunting task, it’s extremely important to do at regular intervals, made much simpler by new technology like skin-checking app Miiskin, which helps you track your skin and moles for changes over time by reminding you to take regular snapshots.
The good news is that most skin cancers can be cured if caught early. So spotting the tell-tale signs is extremely important for early detection, as well as carrying out regular checks of your skin. It could save your life.
What are the signs of skin cancer?
Any changes in your skin should be monitored. It may be difficult to remember if there has been a change in your mole/skin, so here are six things that you need to keep in mind whenever you’re checking your skin…
1. The Ugly Duckling: new growths, moles, spots or lesions
The most significant sign of skin cancer is any new mark, mole or growth on your skin. Everyone is different so become familiar with what is normal for you, and if anything stands out from other moles/marks on your skin, you need to pay closer attention.
2. New moles or lesions when you’re older than 35
Below the age of 35, it is quite normal to develop new moles. After that age, it becomes less common. In adults, 71% of melanomas show up as new moles or marks on the skin, not simply changes in existing ones.
Be extra attentive to new lesions if you are over 35 and remember to check areas you don’t look at often, such as your back. Taking a photo of these difficult areas is recommended to discover any new lesions early.
3. The ABCDE rule
If you notice a change in your skin/mole, always think ‘ABCDE’:
A – Asymmetry: something abnormal and irregular changing in its shape
B – Border: blurred or jagged edges of the area
C – Colour: pigmentation changing from one area to another in the mole
D – Diameter: increased size or change of shape – melanomas are typically bigger than a pencil eraser (about 6mm) when diagnosed, but they can start smaller
E – Evolving: when a mole starts to evolve, either changing in colour, increasing in size, or growing dome-shaped spots on your skin
The ABCDE rule is a handy guide when checking your skin. If you notice any changes at all, get checked by a doctor. It’s preferable to take any historical photos of the lesion with you to the appointment, to help with their diagnosis and whether they should refer you to a dermatologist for further examination.
4. It’s not just moles you should monitor
Any lesion, not just a mole, that goes through changes in shape, colour or size, should be looked at. A mole and the skin around it could also become red or start swelling.
5. Darkening areas of skin
If a larger patch of your skin is changing colour or darkening, get it checked for early signs of skin cancer. These changes include darkening in areas of skin on your face, on the underside of your feet and palms, as well as dark lines developing under your nails. Melanomas can also develop in areas of the skin that are rarely exposed to the sun.
6. Any lesions that don’t heal
An important sign of some skin cancers is a sore or lesion that doesn’t heal within a few weeks, including a lesion that itches or bleeds. It may or may not look like a mole, so pay close attention as this could be a symptom of skin cancer.
If in doubt, get it checked out by a doctor and get into the habit of looking out for changes in your skin as this is the most important sign of skin cancer to be aware of. It might be nothing to worry about, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How often should I check my skin for signs of skin cancer?
Checking your skin is something you should do at regular intervals. Creating a skin checking routine is vital for early detection, and remember, the survival rate of melanoma is 98.3% if it is caught in its earliest stages.
Effective, regular self-monitoring can be difficult, especially if you have a lot of moles, but new technology can help with the task. Miiskin takes photos and helps you compare them over time so you can assess for any changes, with its nifty push alerts reminding you when you need to check your skin again.
Tips for establishing a skin checking route:
- > Regularity is key. Instead of setting up calendar reminders, the Miiskin app allows you to set up your own skin checking schedule however often you wish.
- > Check your entire body. This may sound quite daunting, but a regular head-to-toe skin self-exam is vital, particularly for areas that you can’t see yourself, such as your back. Take photos of your full body, which are easily comparable against previous entries through the Miiskin app.
- > Skin cancer almost never hurts. You’re likely to see changes before you feel them, with itchiness, bleeding and pain usually coming later. Don’t wait until it hurts – react on visual changes.
- > Keep the Ugly Ducking criteria and ABCDE rule in your mind when you check your skin.
- > A photo never lies. Take photos of your skin, moles and full body during every skin check session so you can later compare and see if anything has changed. Watch out particularly for any new spots: remember, in adults, 71% of melanomas actually occur as new lesions, not existing ones.
- > At all costs, avoid self-diagnosing. It’s in people’s nature to make their own conclusions about their health. But when it comes to skin cancer don’t try to self-diagnose, even if you’re using the Miiskin app.
For delicate ginger flowers, it’s so important to know what’s healthy and normal for you. It should be noted that the Miiskin app does not diagnose skin cancer or tell you that you are at risk or not. The detection of skin cancer is far from simple and should only be undertaken by qualified doctors – not apps, so always consult your doctor if you have any concerns. Miiskin helps you to track your skin for changes on a regular basis, so that you can decide to seek medical help if you spot concerning changes.
And, as always, wear SPF. Getting sunburned can double your risk of getting skin cancer, so be sensible in the sun!
Miiskin is free to download at your App store by searching for ‘Miiskin – Melanoma Skin Cancer’. Miiskin also offers a premium subscription that allows you to securely back up your photos, take photos of your skin as a whole to watch out for new spots and also allows you to access your photos from any device to help you to better compare your photos side by side on a big screen. The premium version comes with a 30-day free trial, so you can try it out before you pay.
[Images: Skin cancer pictures provided by DermNet NZ under license to Miiskin]
This article was written in partnership with Miiskin, but we only ever write about things we like and we believe will be of interest to our readers.