Skin cancer is becoming more and more common; one out of five people will develop it during their lifetime. Specifically, melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and the leading cause of death due to skin disease. In 2009, the American Cancer Society estimated that 68,720 people in the United States got melanoma, and about 8,650 died from it. Skin cancer can be very serious business.
Early detection and treatment are the keys to success. Most skin cancers are easily treated and, if treated early, have a high cure rate. Since you see your skin more than anyone does, you play the most important role in early detection.
You should perform a full skin exam of yourself monthly. Pick an easy day to remember such as the first day of each month. Look for new or changing moles and pink sores or pimples that don't heal the way you would expect. With brown lesions such as moles, you should be evaluating the "ABCDE's": Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter and Evolving. If a lesion is asymmetrical, has irregular borders, multiple colors, a diameter (width) larger than the head of a pencil eraser, or is evolving (growing/changing), you should see a dermatologist.
A dermatologist will visually inspect your moles for irregularity of color, size and shape and other factors that make a mole abnormal in appearance. If your doctor finds a potentially abnormal mole or other lesion, he or she may biopsy it by numbing the area and taking a small sample. If lab tests find the lesion to be abnormal, your dermatologist may need to do a second procedure to remove the entire lesion from your skin.
Also be on the lookout for any lesions that have developed little red arteries in them.
Go see a doctor about any lesion on sun-exposed skin (face, neck, ears, hands) that is like a sore that never fully heals.