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How to Check Your Skin for Skin Cancer

  • Posted: 09/16/2011

How to Check Your Skin for Skin Cancer

To detect skin cancer early, examine your skin all over your body and watch for changes over time.

By checking your skin regularly, you’ll learn what is normal for you. 

Lady standing in front of a mirror to examine her skin after a shower

The best time to check your skin is after a shower or bath.

Use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror in a room with plenty of light.

If you find anything unusual, see your doctor.

Check yourself from head to toe:

  • Look at your face, neck, ears, and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move your hair so that you can see better. You also may want to have a relative or friend check through your hair. It may be hard to check your scalp by yourself.
  • Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror. Then, raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
  • Bend your elbows. Look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides), and upper arms.
  • Check the back, front, and sides of your legs. Also check the skin all over your buttocks and genital area.
  • Sit and closely examine your feet, including your toenails, the soles of your feet, and the spaces between your toes.

 Learn where your moles are and their usual look and feel. Check for anything new, such as…

  •  a new mole (that looks different from your other moles)
  • a new red or darker color flaky patch that may be a little raised
  • a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole
  • a sore that doesn’t heal
  • a new flesh-colored firm bump

Write down the dates of your skin self-exams and make notes about the way your skin looks on those dates. You may find it helpful to take photos to help check for changes over time.