Melanoma: Steps for self examination

Melanoma: Steps for self examination

Summertime offers ample opportunity for fun in the sun. However, too much time outside could harm your skin, causing sunburn or leading to something as serious as skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 91,270 new melanomas will be diagnosed this year alone, expected to take the lives of 9,320 individuals. These statistics alone make learning more about melanoma critical to living your best life. Knowing how to check for cancerous moles and following healthier habits to reduce your risk for skin cancer is important for adults of all ages.

Reducing your risk
Don't let the idea of skin cancer keep you from spending time out in the sun this summer. Just prioritize skin protection with the following tips recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

"Use sun lotion with at least SPF 15."

Wear protective clothing – Use articles of clothing to protect your arms and legs from harmful UV rays. Also wear a hat and sunglasses to shield your eyes, ears, head and neck from the sun.
Always use sunscreen – Use sun lotion with at least SPF 15 that offers both UVA and UVB protection.
Be aware of peak sun hours – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are most dangerous for UV exposure.
Don't use tanning beds – Indoor tanning can increase your risk for melanoma by as much as 75 percent, according to the Skin Care Foundation.

Warning signs of skin cancer
The first step to identifying cancerous moles early on is understanding what to look for. Before you reach out to a dermatologist or melanoma specialist, you can give yourself a self examination and identify the ABCDEs of your moles, according to the American Academy of Dermatology:

A is for asymmetry. Is one half of the mole different from the other?
B is for border. Is the border irregular or poorly defined?
C is for color. Does your mole vary in color, ranging from shades of tan, brown or black? In some instances, it may even be white, red and blue.
D is for diameter. Moles that are larger than 6 millimeters in length can often be ruled out as melanoma. You can use a pencil eraser to determine the width of your mole.
E is for evolving. If you've noticed your mole is constantly changing in size, shape or color, it may be cancerous.

Woman in bra facing back to cameraCheck your backside for unusual moles.

Self examination
Now that you understand what to look for, giving yourself a head-to-toe examination for cancerous or precancerous spots is critical. Finding unusual moles early allows you to get them removed before they turn into a serious problem that can't be reversed. To perform the self exam, gather the following tools:

  • A bright light
  • Full-length mirror
  • Hand mirror
  • Two chairs
  • A blow dryer
  • A pencil with an eraser

Follow this step-by-step checklist when searching for cancerous spots, as suggested by the Skin Cancer Foundation:

  1. Start with your face. Use mirror to look closely at your nose, lips, mouth and ears.
  2. Using a blow-dryer and mirror, expose each section of your scalp to check for moles.
  3. Next, check your hands thoroughly. Look at your palms, backs and wrists, between your fingers and underneath your fingernails.
  4. Move to the full-length mirror and examine your arms, underarms and elbows.
  5. Looking in the mirror, remove your shirt and examine your neck, chest and torso. Women with large breasts should remember to thoroughly inspect the undersides of the area.
  6. Now, turn your back to the full length mirror and use the smaller mirror to look at your shoulder, upper back and neck.
  7. Move down to your lower back, backside and backs of your legs and ankles.
  8. Finally, sit down on one chair and prop your foot up on the other. Using the hand mirror, check your thighs, genitals, shins and ankles, moving down between your toes and under your toenails. End by examining the soles and heels of your feet.

If you spot any irregular moles during your examination, use the pencil eraser to measure its width to determine its status.

Visit Maryland Plastic Surgery for a professional opinion
While color adjustments in moles are a normal part of aging, using the steps previously listed can help you understand if the darkened area is an issue. If you're unsure whether your mole is cancerous, visit the world class physicians at Maryland Plastic Surgery. They can help you determine the health of your skin and eliminate any problems they find. The doctors can use top quality equipment to remove cancerous moles and sew the skin layer shut using surgical excision.  

To learn more about your options, schedule your complimentary consultation today.


Dr. Summers was recommended to me by a friend who had breast implants and a tummy tuck at the Maryland Plastic Surgery Center. She was delighted with the results. When she learned that I was interested in some facial work, she immediately told me that the best cosmetic surgeon in town is Adam Summers. She showed me the work he had done for her and I couldn’t believe how incredible she looked. I couldn’t even find her scars. I asked around some more and it turns out that Dr. Summers has quite a reputation for facelift surgery and is one of the few real experts for injections around the face. After my visit with him today, I had to let everyone know that if you are interested in any type of cosmetic procedure or surgery, you MUST visit Dr. Summers at his beautiful medical spa. He offers a complimentary appointment and was right on time. He spent an entire hour with me reviewing my concerns. Although it was late in the day and I know he had been working all day, he was kind and funny (and cute!) and made me feel very comfortable. I had some injections done and I look great. No, I look better than great! Truly, I’m thrilled with the results. This was the first time I had ever had anything done, and Dr. Summers made sure I was comfortable and that it was painless and that I looked just the way I wanted!

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Barbara F.
Dr. Summers was recommended to me by a friend who had breast implants and a tummy tuck at the Maryland Plastic Surgery Center. She was delighted with the results. When she learned that I was interested in some facial work, she immediately told me that the best cosmetic surgeon in town is Adam Summers. She showed me the work he had done for her and I couldn’t believe how incredible she looked. I couldn’t even find her scars. I asked around some more and it turns out that Dr. Summers has quite a reputation for facelift surgery and is one of the few real experts for injections around the face. After my visit with him today, I had to let everyone know that if you are interested in any type of cosmetic procedure or surgery, you MUST visit Dr. Summers at his beautiful medical spa. He offers a complimentary appointment and was right on time. He spent an entire hour with me reviewing my concerns. Although it was late in the day and I know he had been working all day, he was kind and funny (and cute!) and made me feel very comfortable. I had some injections done and I look great. No, I look better than great! Truly, I’m thrilled with the results. This was the first time I had ever had anything done, and Dr. Summers made sure I was comfortable and that it was painless and that I looked just the way I wanted!

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J. Hoover
This was my second major procedure with Dr Summers, having had a major tummy tuck in 2005 with which I was thrilled! The breast lift and aug was as pain-free as possible, I was prepped accordingly with information, risks and self-care…and when a fear arose afterwords that I wasnt healing in the manner I THOUGHT I should be, Dr Summers put my mind at ease immediately, as did the entire staff, by giving me the facts I needed to proceed with confidence.

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Beth H. (Frederick, MD)
I have always been “shy” about my breast size…or lack there of…and had wanted implants from early on. After 3 children I still had no breasts and finally decided to “bite the bullet”. I had my procedure done in May of 2005 at the Maryland Plastic Surgery Center and loved, loved, loved the results… A couple months ago (and 4 years after my initial augmentation) I noticed some almost immediate volume decrease in my left breast. I called Dr. Summers office and his staff promptly set me up an appointment to check it out. Within less than a week I was back on the table having my implant replaced (at no cost to me) and it had turned out to be a defect in the implant valve. Dr. Summers was as amazing with my replacement implant as he was with the initial implant…which concerned me initially as I wrongly assumed that since it was covered under the warranty that I would not be as much of a “priority” as “paying” clients. I was certainly wrong about that aspect as Dr. Summers was more than willing to resolve my issue as quickly as possible. I am contemplating liposuction or maybe a tummy tuck… When I decide to do it Dr. Summers will be my first choice!! For anyone out there contemplating a procedure…set yourself up a consult with Dr. Summers…you will walk out of his office with confidence in him as your surgeon as well looking forward to a date for your procedure…what are you waiting for?– Lutisha Verified TrueReview®
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Because of a terrible car crash in 1995, I have been unable to breathe correctly and I have not looked like myself for a long time. My breathing became unbearable and then I was so lucky to have found Dr. Summers. My rhinoplasty surgery has changed me so much. My breathing is so much better now and I finally have a bridge on my nose again. I used to think my lungs were not working properly. It is so amazing how much better I can breathe now. I am very happy about my nose, too. I have felt very ugly inside but never let it get me down or change me but now it feels good to look like my old self again. It’s a blessing that I met Dr. Summers and I am so very grateful that I was so lucky to have him as my surgeon. I found out that all the research I did on Dr. Summers is better than I expected…I found that he was the best around, but in my eyes’, he is the best ALL AROUND! Thank you! You have changed my life…

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