Your best defense from melanoma is performing your own full-body check, here’s how.

By Meghan Overdeep
June 8, 2017
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Careful in that summer sun, especially on your back. It's the most common place for malignant melanoma

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Melanoma isn’t something to mess around with. One in 50 Americans will develop malignant melanoma in their lifetime, and approximately 10,000 people will die from it this year alone. And like many forms of cancer, early detection is key. The problem is, many folks don’t know how to check. Heck, we’re not so sure ourselves. Luckily, the Skin Cancer Foundation is hitting the road as part of its new initiative called Destination: Healthy Skin. The foundation’s RV is making 50 stops in 17 states, offering free full-body screenings from dermatologists between now and the end of August.

"It takes about 10 minutes," said Dr. Elizabeth Hale on Thursday morning’s episode of Today. "We recommend all adults 18 and over get a check once a year. If you have specific risk factors like a family history of skin cancer, a lot of moles, a history of indoor tanning — you should get checked twice a year."

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If for some reason you can’t make it to the dermatologist, Hale recommends at least having a friend or loved one check your back for suspicious moles. The back is the most common site for malignant melanoma in both men and women, which is particularly dangerous because it’s the part of our bodies that’s hardest to see. If you detect skin cancer before it spreads, you have a 98 percent chance of cure, Today reports.

You best defense is performing your own check. (No excuses, it only takes 10 minutes.) To start, strip down to your birthday suit, and examine your skin for suspicious moles from your scalp—parting the hair to check the skin—to your toes. And don’t be shy, whip out that old hand mirror for the places you can’t see up close. Keep an eye out for moles that are asymmetrical or have irregular borders; colors that are irregular, diameter bigger than the size of a pencil eraser; anything that’s changing or evolving. Trust your gut: if it looks funny, it probably is. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen!

Download your own mole chart from the American Academy of Dermatology here, and visit DestinationHealthySkin.org to find out if and when the Skin Cancer Foundation’s RV will be in town.

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