This Daily Bad Habit May Help Early Skin Cancer Detection

Not all cancers can be seen but for the ones that are, social media can be a life-saver.

Unlike many other cancers, skin cancer can be visible on the skin in the forms of moles or blemishes which can make it easier to detect.

“It’s the only cancer that you can look and see with your own eyes,” says Autumn Shafer, an associate professor in public relations at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon.

“But people don’t really know what melanoma is or how to check their skin for it.”

Melanoma skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 4% of all new cancer cases, according to Cancer Research UK.

How social media can help to detect melanoma skin cancer

In a paper published in the journal JID Innovations, researchers tested to see if digital campaigns can increase the public’s knowledge of melanoma and promote the practice of self-examining one’s skin for new and unusual moles.

To investigate, Shafer and colleagues created two different posts designed for both Instagram and Facebook for study participants to view. One graphic placed noncancerous moles with melanoma moles, highlighting that cancerous moles often are asymmetrical, misshapen, multi-coloured, and larger.

With this post, researchers hoped to increase participants’ knowledge of melanoma’s warning signs and symptoms.

The second graphic was more of a game of spot-the-difference. Participants were shown photos of an individual with and without a mole and they had to identify where the blemish was.

Researchers were hoping to increase participants’ confidence in identifying moles, and, therefore, their likelihood to do skin checks.

Once the participants were shown one, both, or none of the posts, the researchers conducted a follow-up test and survey. This required participants to categorise 24 images of moles as either melanoma or noncancerous.

Those who viewed the knowledge-focused posts correctly identified more melanoma moles than participants who didn’t see it. Additionally, those that engaged with the spot-the-difference graphic reported higher levels of confidence in their ability and intentions to check their skin than those who didn’t see the post.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those who saw both posts reaped the mostr benefits, becoming knowledgeable and confident.

The signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer

According to the NHS, a new mole or a change in an existing mole may be signs of melanoma.

The types of moles to check for:

  • Mole with an uneven shape or edges
  • Mole with a mix of colours
  • Large mole — normal moles tend to be no wider than 6mm
  • Mole that changes over time. Moles that change size, shape or colour may be melanoma

Other signs to look out for include moles that are:

  • swollen and sore
  • bleeding
  • itchy
  • crusty

If you have noticed any of these changes, or dark marks on your body that don’t go away after a short period of time, speak to your GP.