When skin cancer is spotted early, it's almost always curable. For melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 99 percent-if the tumor is spotted when it's nothing more than a spot on the skin, according to the American Cancer Society. But that survival rate plunges to 15 percent once the fast growing cancer has spread. Here are the ways to look out for skin cancer:
• Look for new spots. While some melanomas emerge from moles, about 70 percent do not.
• Monitor moles for any signs of change. Moles that change shape, color, or size are big red flags.
• Be wary of moles that bleed. Normal mole should not bleed.
• Men, watch your back; women, your legs. It's more common for men to get melanomas on their backs and trunks, while women tend to get them on their legs and calves.
• Guys, monitor the top of your ears and head especially closely. Many hats for men don't shade the ears, and balding men often forget to protect their hairless pates. Both are common sites for squamous and basal cell carcinoma.
• Don't overlook the places where the sun doesn't shine. Many melanomas show up in armpits, hands, belly buttons, underneath hair, the bottom of the feet, and other places that don't get much direct light.
• Have a second pair of eyes look. Have your partner or a family member scour the parts of your body that are tough for you to inspect.
• Call your doctor at the first indication of trouble. The earlier skin cancer is caught, the more likely it is curable.