Surprising Spots You Need to Check for Skin Cancer
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone—regardless of skin tone—practice head-to-toe self examinations of their skin in addition to making an appointment once a year for a full-body check with your dermatologist. For most people, once a month is ideal, but more frequent checks may be necessary for some. The point is to check for any new or changing moles, lesions, or markings that can be precancerous or cancerous, since skin cancer is highly treatable when it’s detected early. A self examination shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, so there’s really no excuse to skip out on it—especially since that small investment of time could save your life.
Now, you’ve got your bright lights and mirrors handy, and you’re about to dive in. While your first instinct may be to only check areas that are exposed to sunlight the most, remember that sun damage from UV radiation is not the only factor that can increase your risk for developing skin cancer. Thus, in addition to checking easy-to-see (and sun-exposed) skin—think: face, chest, and arms—you’ll have to scan areas that rarely see the light of day, places that are a bit more unexpected. Ready, set, go!
ON YOUR SCALP
The scalp is often a forgotten area when it comes to skin checks. What’s worse, cancerous lesions can be hidden underneath hair, making them more difficult to spot. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends thoroughly inspecting your scalp using a blow dryer, comb, and mirror to expose each section of skin beneath your locks. Ask a friend or family member for help if you need it. If you see the same hairdresser on a regular basis, consider asking them to point out any suspicious-looking spots or lesions on your scalp they may notice.
UNDER YOUR NAILS
It’s not for nothing that dermatologists recommend removing all nail polish prior to checking your skin. Skin cancer can appear on the skin under your nails. Check your hands carefully—palms and backs, between the fingers, and under the fingernails—during your examination. And when you apply SPF on your body prior to UV exposure (this could be before a gel manicure, too), don’t neglect the tips of your fingers.
BEHIND YOUR EARS
Believe it or not, skin cancer can occur behind your ears or even in the ear canal. Before you write off a new lesion as a little bit of crustiness, evaluate it further. Use a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to get a clear view. If it doesn’t scrub away or you simply aren’t sure, have a professional take a look.
ON THE BOTTOMS OF YOUR FEET & BETWEEN YOUR TOES
If you’re not a fan of pedicures, you may never take a look at the skin around your toes. Let this be your reminder that you certainly should, since skin cancer can appear between your toes and even on your soles. Keep an eye out for any dark spots or sores that aren’t healing.
Some of these areas are hard to self-check, so it’s wise to seek the aid of a trained dermatologist at least once a year. If you’ve never had a full-body skin check and aren’t sure what to expect during your appointment, we share the answers to all the FAQs, here.