Go to AAD Home
Donate For Public and Patients Store Search

Go to AAD Home

Declare your independence from skin cancer: perform a skin self-exam this 4th of July

Board-certified dermatologist discusses importance of preventive health measures in recognition of UV Awareness Month

ROSEMONT, Ill. (June 25, 2024) Brian Ingham was only 32 years old when a board-certified dermatologist discovered melanoma on his back during a routine visit to get a tattoo removed in late 2023. The Washington, D.C.-area military pilot said he knew he was at an increased risk as his mother was recently diagnosed with advanced melanoma that same year. He never realized that the suspicious spot he first noticed in 2020 could also end up being the deadliest form of skin cancer.

“Everyone thinks they’re invincible when they’re young, but sun exposure has ramifications farther down the line,” Ingham said. “I wish I had done more to protect myself — like wearing long-sleeve shirts and sunscreen all the time when I was growing up — but you can’t live in the past. I need to make good decisions right now, because they’ll have an impact on me when I’m 60 or 70 and I’m at a higher risk for a lot of different medical conditions.”

While skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., it is also one of the most preventable. Ahead of the July 4th weekend and UV Awareness Month in July, the American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to regularly perform skin self-exams to catch skin cancer early and protect themselves from the sun to reduce their risks of skin cancer.

“Skin cancer can affect anyone, which is why Brian's experience highlights the importance of performing skin self-exams,” said Neelam Khan, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Washington, D.C. who diagnosed Ingham’s melanoma. “Early detection through regular skin checks can catch skin cancer when it’s most treatable. I advise my patients to routinely inspect their skin for any new or changing spots, because the patients who do so are much more likely to identify something changing on their skin than someone who isn’t regularly checking themselves.”

A skin self-exam involves looking at all the spots on your body, including moles, freckles, and age spots. Skin cancer can appear anywhere on your skin, even in less obvious areas like your palms, soles, mouth, eyes, genitalia, and buttocks, making it one of the few cancers you can typically see on your body. For those with darker skin tones, skin cancer is more likely to develop in areas not commonly exposed to the sun, such as under or around the nails, palms, or soles.

During a skin self-exam, Dr. Khan says you should check your skin and nails for the ABCDEs of melanoma:

  • A stands for ASYMMETRY. One half of the spot is unlike the other half.

  • B stands for BORDER. The spot has an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.

  • C stands for  COLOR. The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown or black, or areas of white, red, or blue.

  • D stands for  DIAMETER. While melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm, or about the size of a pencil eraser, when diagnosed, they can be smaller.

  • E stands for  EVOLVING. The spot looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.

Once you know the warning signs for skin cancer, Dr. Khan recommends following these tips to check your skin:

  1. Examine your body front and back in a full-length mirror, then look at the right and left sides with your arms raised.

  2. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, underarms, fingernails, and palms of your hands.

  3. Look at the backs of your legs and feet, the spaces between your toes, your toenails, and the soles of your feet.

  4. Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part your hair for a closer look at your scalp.

  5. Check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror.

Thankfully, Ingham’s melanoma was removed and he’s cancer-free. Now, he educates others about the importance of regular skin checks and early detection.

“This incident was a powerful lesson I share with friends and loved ones,” Ingham said. “Witnessing the impact of early detection firsthand, many of my friends were inspired to schedule their own skin checks, recognizing the importance of proactive health care. It's a ripple effect I'm grateful to be a part of, knowing that by sharing my story, I may have played a role in potentially saving lives.”

To protect yourself from the sun and reduce your risk of skin cancer, the AAD recommends that everyone seek shade, especially when the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.; wear sun-protective clothing such as a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible; and apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing.

“By taking these precautions, you can reduce the risk of sunburn and long-term skin damage while enjoying the holiday festivities,” said Dr. Khan. “If you notice anything new or unusual on your skin, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, see a board-certified dermatologist.”

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.

# # #


Rhys Saunders, rsaunders@aad.org

Shelby Homiston, shomiston@aad.org

Media Relations, mediarelations@aad.org

More Information

ABCDEs of Melanoma

Practice Safe Sun

Shade, Clothing, and Sunscreen

AAD B-Roll Library

About the AAD

Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 21,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair, and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care because skin, hair, and nail conditions can have a serious impact on your health and well-being. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow @AADskin on Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest  and YouTube and @AADskin1 on  Instagram.

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.