Why you need to check your skin now

Skin cancer

Posted on 14/04/21

You’ll always hear us repeating the statistic that men are almost twice as likely as women to die of skin cancer. We genuinely don’t mean to scaremonger but unfortunately, for now, these are the facts.

On a positive note, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation and Cancer Research UK, melanoma is between 86-90% preventable. All it takes is a couple of simple steps.

The first step is to try and prevent UV damage taking place i.e. protect your skin when you’re outside. The second is to keep an eye on your skin and any changes.

There are emerging scientific theories for the statistical difference but fundamentally, most men don’t do a good enough job of protecting their skin or monitoring it. And today, I want to focus your mind specifically on skin monitoring, why it’s important and how to do it.

Same old story

My personal belief (without any evidence to prove this) is that men don’t habitually look at, and check, their skin to the same extent women might. On top of that, if anything does crop up, our experience at LifeJacket is that men ignore it and put off visiting a dermatologist. Anecdotally, I can tell you that almost every week, we hear from a man who has had a skin cancer diagnosis say ‘I was too busy and life got in the way’.

If you don’t believe me, watch Dave’s story.

Why should you check your skin?

Fundamentally, you want to catch things as early as possible.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the estimated five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected early is about 99%. The survival rate falls to 66% when the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 27% when the disease metastasizes to distant organs.

Going back to my earlier point and why we believe the statistics are skewed, is because men aren’t good enough at monitoring their skin and then acting upon it.

How do I do this then?

BE REGULAR

Every 2-3 months, check your skin for moles or marks that are changing.

MAP IT OUT

In adults, about 70% of melanoma cases form as new marks on the skin and are NOT associated with existing moles. At the same time, you need to monitor existing moles for any strange signs or developments (explained later).

You have options here that vary in ease, cost and reliability.

Find a local dermatology clinic that does ‘mole mapping’. They take photos of your entire body and a dermatologist will also do a physical examination. This is the easiest and most reliable option but clearly, the most expensive. You could do one map per year and keep an eye on your skin every 2-3 months in between to keep costs down.

You can do a check yourself for free. Keep notes and pictures on your phone so you can compare and contrast. Make a note of existing moles, their position and what they look like. Keeping an eye on new formations on the skin will be the hardest thing to achieve this way which is why you definitely will want help and some good, well lit, high resolution photos using a smartphone camera. Fifteen minutes doing this every 2-3 months isn’t that bad.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Find a well lit room. Get help or use a large mirror and hand mirror. Any changes can be a concern: look for growing size, changing shape, new colours, bleeding, pain, crusting, red around the edges or itching.

Use the ABCDE method to diagnose any possible problem areas.

WHERE TO CHECK

Work from top to bottom: scalp, face, neck, upper arms, elbows, forearms, both sides of your hands (including fingernails and palms), chest, sides and stomach. Then back, buttocks and legs. Lastly, check your feet including your soles.

NOT SURE?!

If you’re not certain or have even the slightest doubt, see a doctor straight away. They can refer you for further checks if necessary.

Remember Dave’s story earlier?

Don’t wait and don’t put it off. 

Prevention AND detection

Remember that monitoring your skin is a critical way to reduce risk.

Preventing damage by protecting your skin when outside is another.

Make sure you have both of these in your locker.