A Valentine's Gift That Matters

Spot-Check Your Sweetheart

New York, NY (February 9, 2011) - This Valentine's Day, show your loved one how much you care about his health - help him check his skin for signs of skin cancer. In men, one third of melanomas, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are found on the back, which is difficult to see on your own body. Men are also much less likely to examine their own skin, and studies have shown that when their skin cancers are found at an early stage, they were most often detected by a spouse or partner.

Studies have also shown that couples who check one another for skin cancers tend to do so more scrupulously than people who do skin self-exams alone. Having a partner to help with the exam can make it easier both to remember to check the skin regularly and to examine areas such as the scalp and back.

"Conducting a skin exam with a partner can dramatically reduce the risk for having an advanced skin cancer and could possibly mean the difference between life and death," said Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation.

While a monthly self-exam shouldn't replace the important annual skin exam performed by a physician, it offers the best chance of detecting the early warning signs of melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, the three most common skin cancers.

Know the Warning Signs.
Be careful to take note of the following:

  • A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored.
  • A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that:
    • changes color
    • increases in size or thickness
    • changes in texture
    • is irregular in outline
    • is bigger than 6mm or 1/4", the size of a pencil eraser
    • appears after age 21
  • A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed.
  • An open sore that does not heal within three weeks.

If you notice any change in an existing mole or discover a new one that looks suspicious, see a physician immediately.

Look for any of the warning signs when you perform a self-exam. You'll need a bright light, a hand mirror, two chairs or stools and a blow dryer.

1. Examine the face, especially the nose, lips, mouth, and ears - front and back.

2. Thoroughly inspect the scalp, using a blow dryer to expose each section to view.

3. Check the hands carefully: palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both front and back of the forearms.

4. Begin at the elbows and scan all sides of the upper arms. Don't forget the underarms.

5. Next focus on the neck, chest, and torso. Women should lift breasts to view the underside.

6. Inspect the back of the neck, shoulders, upper back, and the back of the upper arms.

7. Scan the lower back, buttocks, and backs of both legs.

Sit down; prop each leg in turn on the other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin, ankles, tops of feet, between toes and under toenails. Examine soles of feet and heels.

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After the first few times, self-exams should take no more than 10 minutes - a small investment once a month in what could be a lifesaving procedure.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. To find out more about how to spot a skin cancer and for information on self-exams, visit www.skincancer.org/exam.

About The Skin Cancer Foundation

The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. For more information, visit www.SkinCancer.org.