You can improve your chances of finding skin cancer by performing a simple self exam.
The best time to do this self-exam is after a shower or bath. You should check your skin in a well-lit room using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. It is best to begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles and blemishes are and what they usually look like. Check for anything new—a change in the size, texture or color of a mole; or a sore that does not heal.
You should be certain to check all areas thoroughly, including the back, scalp, between the buttocks and genital area.
- Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror, then raise your arms and look at the left and right sides.
- Bend your elbows and look carefully at your palms; forearms, including the undersides; and the upper arms.
- Examine the back and front of your legs. Also look between your buttocks and around your genital area.
- Sit and closely examine your feet, including the soles and the spaces between the toes.
- Look at your face, neck and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move hair so that you have a better view.
By checking your skin regularly, you will become familiar with what is “normal.” If you find anything unusual, see your doctor right away. Remember, the earlier skin cancer is found, the better the chance for a cure.
When you are performing the skin self-exam, look for:
- New skin markings (moles, blemishes, changes in color, bumps)
Moles that have changed in size, texture, color, or shape
Moles or sores that continue to bleed or won’t heal
Moles with uneven edges, differences in color, or lack of even sides (symmetry)
Any mole or growth that looks very different from other skin growths
Always tell your doctor if:
- You have any new or unusual sores or spots on your skin
- A mole or skin sore changes in size, color, or texture
- You have a sore that does not heal
To learn more about skin cancer, please visit the Cancer Institute’s Melanoma and Soft Tissue Tumor (MASTT) Program.