February. The month of lovers. You’re probably thinking flowers, chocolates, a card and maybe some jewelry for the love in your life this Valentine’s Day. But we’ve got an even better idea. How about the gift of life? Hear us out—we’re not trying to get fresh here—we’re just presenting a fresh idea: Partner skin checks.
What’s that, you say?
Partner skin checks—quite literally checking your partner’s skin for suspect moles and markings. And once you start this month, make it a monthly habit. It’s imperative that we all check our bodies for early warning signs of compromised health such as melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. And, if we’re being honest here, it’s impossible to check all the areas of our bodies by ourselves. That’s where your partner comes in!
As a general rule of thumb, when you’re checking over your partner’s skin (or your own), use the American Cancer Society’s “ABCDE rule” to identify some of the common signs of melanoma:
- Asymmetry: One part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other.
- Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white or blue.
- Diameter: The spot is larger than one-quarter inch across—about the size of a pencil eraser.
- Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape or color.
It’s important to note that not all skin cancers look like the descriptions listed above, so, really, point out anything you’re concerned about to your partner and have them communicate said concerns with their doctor. Be mindful of the following:
- Any new spots.
- Any spot that doesn’t look like others on your body.
- Any sore that doesn’t heal.
- Redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole.
- Itching, pain or tenderness.
- Oozing, scaliness or bleeding.
When detected early, skin cancer—including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer—is highly treatable. Research has shown that women are nine times more likely than men to notice melanoma on others, which means women could help save their partners' lives by helping them spot skin cancer. This is especially important for men over 50 as they have an increased risk of developing melanoma compared to the general population. (But don’t wait until 50 to get started, please!)
The importance of being proactive with regard to skin health is no secret. The facts are right in front of us:
- Nearly 9,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
- On average, one American dies from melanoma every hour.
- The five-year survival rate for melanoma when detected and treated in its early stages is 98%.
- An estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
February is for lovers. Scan the skin of all those lovers this month and beyond. It’s a small step in assuring lasting health and many more made memories ahead.