Conduct a skin self-exam

Checking your skin a few minutes each month may help you spot cancer before it spreads. Learn how, now.

Andrea Markowitz, Ph.D.

Staff Writer

May 11, 2010


Skin cancer is easiest to cure when caught early. So The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends monthly self-exams. Your doctor may suggest more frequent self-exams if you have a higher risk for skin cancer.

What to Look For

Skin cancer can start as a dark spot, mole, lesion, scaly patch or a change in an existing mole. See your doctor or dermatologist immediately if you notice any of the following warning signs:

How to Look

1. You'll need a bright light; full-length mirror for seeing your back and behind your head and ears; hand mirror; blow dryer; body maps; pencil; and two chairs or stools.

2. On body maps, draw a dot that shows each freckle, mole, birthmark, bump, sore, scab or scaly patch on your skin. Indicate each one's approximate size and color and the date in the margin. During subsequent exams, match each dot to its corresponding spot on your body, record the new date and note any changes. Also record new spots.

3. Either with a partner or by yourself:

Examine your face, including nose, lips, mouth, and front and back of ears.
For more information visit The Skin Cancer Foundation, The American Academy of Dermatology.