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Skin Cancer: 4 Reasons You're at Risk

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Do-It-Yourself Skin Exam

In an exclusive FITNESS poll, only 22 percent of women say they check themselves the recommended once a month, while almost half say they never examine themselves, and don't know how. Yet a skin exam is just a visual check. See how easy it is with this step-by-step guide based on recommendations from the Skin Cancer Foundation.

  1. Get naked.
  2. Look for any new moles or those that appear different from the others. Of preexisting moles, watch out for the "ABCDE's" of melanoma: asymmetry, border irregularity, color that's uneven, diameters bigger than 6 millimeters, and evolution, meaning the mole has changed in any way.


Examine every inch of your body, paying special attention to your legs, the most common site for melanoma in women, plus areas exposed to the sun, like face, hands, and shoulders, the most common sites for nonmelanoma cancer. (Use a mirror for your back, or ask your partner for help.)

Be sure to check "down there" for any dark bumps or flat and mottled spots. Because skin cancer in the genital area is frequently missed, it's one of the deadliest.

If you find anything suspicious, call your doctor, who will either have you come in or refer you to a dermatologist. Even if you don't find anything, you now have a baseline sense of the moles on your body; moving forward, you will know when a new one pops up or an old one changes.

Is it benign or is it skin cancer? Check out our illustrated guide to basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.


Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2007.


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