Are you at risk for skin cancer? Early detection gives you a better chance of recovery. In fact, when skin cancers are caught and treated in their earliest stages, they are highly curable. Those who are vigilant in examining their skin on a monthly basis can detect changes and seek medical help before a more serious problem develops. If you have not been self-examining your skin, Melanoma Awareness Month is the perfect time to start.
Self-Examination for Skin Cancer
Over 100,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma each year. The good news is, blood tests and X-rays are not necessary for early detection of skin cancer. You can check your skin for problems; all you need is a mirror and your eyes.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has guidelines for spotting skin cancer early. We highlight some of the AAD guidelines for spotting skin cancer early below. When examining your skin, you may want to keep your findings in a notebook, so you do not need to rely solely on your memory from month to month.
You will need a well-lit room, a hand mirror and a full-length mirror. The hand-held mirror is used to check areas like the back of your thighs. You can also enlist the help of a close relative or friend to help check your scalp and back.
The first time you do a self-examination on your skin, you are setting a baseline. Go over the entire surface noting pattern of moles, any blemishes and freckles you may have. Notice any marks on your skin and take special notice of areas of concern. These areas should be seen by your doctor.
What to Look For
There are many types of skin cancer, but the most common are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Of the three, melanoma is the most serious as melanoma tends to spread. Melanoma can develop in an existing mole, or it can appear as a new dark spot on the skin. Basal cell carcinoma is commonly found on bald scalp areas, ears, the face and neck area and other areas of the body that have been highly exposed to the sun. Carcinomas tend to look like a pearly bump or a rough red area that can be scaly or possibly bleed.
Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body but tends to be seen more often in the head and neck area, the upper back, and in the lower legs. The early warning signs of melanoma are important to know and are outlined below.
Learn the ABCDE warning signs of melanoma to help with finding this skin cancer in its earliest stages.
- A – These spots are asymmetrical. One side will differ from the other.
- B – If the border is irregular, scalloped or poorly defined, there may be a problem.
- C – Color will vary from one area to another. There may be shades of tan, brown or black or areas of white, red or blue.
- D – The diameter of early stage melanoma can be less than 6 millimeters. They can grow to be larger than that.
- E – Melanomas are evolving spots. They can change in size, shape or color.
The AAD has photos that will help you clearly identify problem areas when doing a self-examination. Talk with your Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center Board Certified provider about what you have found.
How to Examine Your Skin
Your initial self-examination is going to be your baseline to which subsequent exams will be compared. Each time you examine your skin, note any changes. You can easily make this a monthly routine before or after you take a shower. Begin your exam by facing the full-length mirror.
- Face the mirror – check the entire front of your body, including your ears. Women with large breasts should lift them to check underneath.
- Check your arms – look at both sides of your arms and check underarm areas; thoroughly examine your hands, between fingers and under fingernails.
- Sit down to check your legs – look at your thighs, shins and feet. Check between your toes and under toenails.
- Using the hand mirror, check the bottom of your feet, the back of your calves and thighs.
- Stand with your back to the full-length mirror and use the hand mirror to check your upper and lower back.
- Do not forget to thoroughly check your genital area and your buttocks.
- Check your scalp by parting your hair with a comb.
Keep track of your findings and if you see any spots that seem abnormal or different, make a note to show them to your Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center provider.
Healthy Skin is in!
Tips for Healthy Skin: Make your skin care regime a priority. Schedule an appointment to learn the best regime for your skin type and purchase the best skin care products for your skin type. Learn to love your skin and treat it well. Treat your skin right - Commit to an annual (or more often if your Gardens Dermatology provider recommends it) skin check. In addition to sunscreen, use cleansers, moisturizers and other skin care products that are suited to your skin type. Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic surgery Center carries a variety of medical grade products, designed to give you beautiful healthy skin. Never go to sleep with your makeup on. Drink plenty of water. Don't forget about a balanced, healthy diet -- eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants. Get plenty of sleep. Develop a routine with the advice of your Gardens Dermatology provider which might look like:
Morning Routine Cheat Sheet: Gentle cleanser, toner, hydration with antioxidants, eye cream, sunscreen. Smile!
Evening Routine Cheat Sheet: Cleanser, toner, treatment (such as retinol), serum, eye cream, moisturizer. Exhale and relax.
Love The Skin You Are In! -
It’s time to practice self-love and learn to love your skin. Your Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center provider can help you look your best by providing the most recent evaluation and treatments for your skin, hair and nails You can learn to love your natural skin tone and complexion.
Learn to love your skin - stop being critical of your skin tone. All skin tones are beautiful. Forget about tanning. Tanning leads to premature aging, wrinkles and even skin cancer. Protect your skin with sunscreen every day. Your skin is your largest organ, treat it well. Beautiful skin comes in every shade. Embrace the skin color with which you were born.
Go natural - When applying your makeup, don't aim to cover up your skin -- instead, just enhance it. The natural look is "in" right now, whether you have pale skin and freckles or deep mahogany skin. The Natural Look doesn't mean no makeup. Most of us can use a little help now and then to reduce the appearance of blemishes and other small imperfections. Use a sheer foundation or tinted moisturizer that matches the natural tone of your skin. Apply makeup with a light hand -- a little goes a long way. Save the ultra-glam makeup for special occasions, and stick with the natural makeup look for everyday wear.
Treat your skin right - Commit to an annual (or more often if your Gardens Dermatology provider recommends it) skin check. In addition to sunscreen, use cleansers, moisturizers and other skin care products that are suited to your skin type. Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic surgery Center carries a variety of medical grade products, designed to give you beautiful healthy skin. Never go to sleep with your makeup on. Drink plenty of water. Don't forget about a balanced, healthy diet -- eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants.
Get plenty of sleep - Lack of sleep can not only put you in a bad mood, it can also wreak havoc on your skin, causing blemishes, puffy eyes and premature signs of aging. Get at least seven hours of restful sleep a night. Your skin (and the rest of your body) needs the downtime while you are sleeping to rejuvenate.
To learn the most effective products and ways to keep your skin healthy, schedule your appointment with your Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery provider today.
Stress and Your Skin
We all deal with different stresses, whether related to our jobs, our families, the cities we live in or the constant struggle to do it all. Stress is not our friend and stress is not good for our skin. Our skin is the largest organ in our bodies, and it can show signs of stress in a number of different ways, such as psoriasis and eczema flare-ups, seborrheic dermatitis and even acne.
Of course, everyone’s body and skin will react to stress in different ways, as we all have different genetic makeups. However, our skin can’t tell the difference between different types of stress — physical, emotional, psychological and environmental. To the skin, stress falls into one of two categories: acute or chronic, The more detrimental form of stress for the skin is the chronic kind of stress. The longer you endure stress, the more it takes a toll on your skin. Stress affects your skin (and your body) in different ways including but not limited to:
Stress triggers inflammation
To better understand how stress might affect and inflame the skin, research confirms a deep and powerful connection of the skin, mind and gut. When the mind perceives stress, it can slow down digestion in the gut. The longer the stress lasts, the more of an impact it can have on your digestion, and when your digestion is slowed, it can affect the bacteria in your gut. A recent study found that high levels of stress can affect the gut bacteria much like a high-fat diet. That slowed motility allows for an overgrowth of unhealthy strains of bacteria, and the natural balance of gut microbes is disrupted, leading to something called dysbiosis. This in turn causes the lining of your intestines to become ‘leaky,’ or more permeable, which triggers a bodywide cascade of inflammation.
As a result of the internal inflammation, the skin may break out in acne or experience flare-ups of psoriasis or eczema. When you’re under stress, your body thinks it’s under attack, and it’s going to form all these inflammatory markers or inflammatory cells to help treat that attack.
Because these inflammatory cells have increased in number, it can trigger flare-ups of any skin conditions people may be predisposed to.
Stress can dry your skin out
Whenever our body feels it’s under stress, our fight-or-flight response kicks in, Patel noted. As a result, we experience a spike in adrenaline and cortisol.
An increase in adrenaline causes us to sweat more, she noted. It activates the eccrine glands, the sweat glands, which cause you to become dehydrated, because you’re losing a lot more water very quickly. she said.
Those who have dry skin in general are more prone to eczema. Stress is a known trigger for eczema, which brings us to our next point.
Stress hormones can trigger existing conditions to worsen or flare up
The theory is that the immune system is directly affected by stress. Stress releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline into our systems — chemical messages that trigger certain physiological responses in our bodies. For instance, adrenaline increases the heart rate and elevates blood pressure, and cortisol increases sugar in the bloodstream. In terms of the skin, when the body produces too much cortisol, the immune system is weakened, causing an inflammatory response such as an eczema or psoriasis flare-up. This factor is particularly relevant for individuals who are predisposed to these skin conditions, as stress can exacerbate or unmask those conditions.
Stress can also make you oilier, which could lead to acne breakouts
That shift in hormone levels - cortisol in particular ― caused by stress can also be a contributing factor to pesky acne breakouts. Stress stimulates the brain to produce a specific set of hormones that prepare the body for the stressful environment. As a side effect, these hormones rev up activity of sebaceous glands in the skin, leading to higher than normal levels of oil, blockages in the pores and acne breakouts.
Stress can also take a toll on your scalp and hair
When it comes to your scalp and hair, there are a couple of ways stress can manifest. Some people might find their hair is oilier or drier than normal during times of stress, depending on the way their bodies react to the shift in hormone levels. Everyone’s response is going to be different in severity. Your scalp and your hair will definitely feel the effects of stress. Some individuals might experience flare-ups of seborrheic dermatitis, a cousin to psoriasis and dandruff. The condition could result in redness and flaking of the scalp. In some cases, stress can even lead to hair loss. For example, when your body experiences a major stressor, like a severe illness, your body stops producing hair, which isn’t crucial for healing or surviving. The effects of such stress might not be noticeable until months later. Hair often starts shedding even after minor stresses. When you put your body through a significant change, it’s essentially a stressor.
Stress can wreak havoc on your nails
The same way your body stops producing hair in times of prolonged stress, it also stops making nails. Again, nails are not necessary for survival, so when it comes time for the body to distribute energy to promote healing, nails aren’t a top priority. Nails can become brittle or start peeling during times of stress.
So how should you take care of your skin when you’re stressed out?
It’s best to keep your skin care routine simple by using gentle cleansers and moisturizers to remove excess oil and keep the skin well hydrated (particularly important for those with eczema). For individuals who are acne prone, regular use of retinoids to keep the follicles clear so that oil does not become trapped, causing breakouts. Managing stress is a multifaceted effort. We recommend that our patients aim to get a solid seven to nine hours of sleep, exercise three or four times a week and consider meditation or deep breathing exercises. There isn’t one single method for treating skin that’s under stress.
The first thing is being aware that your body is under stress and trying to find ways to either ameliorate the stress or find ways to release the stress. Exercise and meditation have been known to help some individuals feel less stressed. There isn’t one right answer for each person, but there are different things that will work for each individual, depending on what their stress triggers are. Talk with your Gardens Dermatology provider about products that best fit your skin health needs.
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