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Each year, thousands of people find irregular spots, bumps, or sores that do not heal on their skin. Many assume that the bumps are nothing to worry about. Often, these skin changes have been growing unobserved for years. Some may be malignant (cancerous). Others are not.
To increase the odds of finding skin cancer as early as possible, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends performing a skin self-exam regularly. You can do a skin self-exam by visually checking all areas of your skin, using a mirror for hard-to-see spots. Areas that get the most sunlight, such as the face, hands, legs, and forearms, are particularly at risk so you should examine them carefully. You can ask your partner, a friend, or a family member to help you with areas that are difficult to see, such as your back or under your hair.
If you don’t know whether the spot is abnormal, if you are unsure whether your insurance will cover the expense, or if you can’t afford to make an appointment with a dermatologist, the AAD provides free skin screenings at participating doctors during limited times of the year. These doctors cannot make a diagnosis, but they can tell you if you should see a dermatologist. Visit the AAD website or call your local health department to find a nearby doctor and the dates the screenings are being performed.