The appearance of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, depends on several factors, some of which we can control, such as sun exposure. With other factors such as family history or multiple moles, we can only monitor our skin and take precautions.

However, treatment and early detection are key to survival. Regularly examining your skin can help identify any new or abnormal lesions, which if detected should be shown to a doctor as soon as possible to avoid the development of skin cancer.

Start by:

  1. Examining your face, especially your nose, lips, mouth, and front and back parts of ears. Use one or two mirrors for a better view.
  2. Check your scalp using as blow-dryer and mirror to observe each section. If possible, have a friend or family member help you.
  3. Next, focus on your neck, chest, and torso. Women should check the underside of their breasts.
  4. With your back to a full-length mirror, use a hand mirror to check the back of your neck, shoulders, and any part of your arms not previously visible.
  5. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma can both be detected in their early stages. As part of a cancer-related routine exam, the doctor should check your skin very closely.

Choose the right place:

  1. The best place for a self-exam is in a well-lighted room and in front of a full-length mirror.
  2. Check your hands carefully: palms and backs, between the fingers, and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both front and back of your arms.
  3. Continue using both mirrors and check your lower back, buttocks, and back part of both legs.
  4. Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Don’t forget the underarms.
  5. With the hand mirror, examine the genitals. Check front and sides of both legs, thighs to feet, ankles, between toes, under toenails, soles of feet, and heels.

The ABCDEs of the self-exam

Piel. Skin, Melanoma. Asistencia médica para turistas y viajeros en Latinoamérica. Medical assistance for tourists and travelers in Latin America.

Sources: Panamanian Association of Dermatology,


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