Most skin cancers can be treated successfully if found early. The American Cancer Society recommends that you check your skin once a month. Try making the first Sunday of the month your Skin check day.
The first time you check your skin, spend enough time to really get to know the patterns of moles, freckles or any other marks. The next time you check, look to see if anything has changed or if there are new spots. If you see something that looks suspicious, make an appointment to show your doctor.
What skin do you need to check? All of it! Skin cancer can show up even in skin that doesn’t see the light of day.
Your Detection ToolsYou probably have them
Skin-Check Steps You can do a skin check in the privacy of your own home. No excuses!
- Front body check
Face the mirror and check your face, ears, neck, chest, belly and legs. Raise your arms and look under your arms and on all sides of your arms. If you are a woman, raise your breasts and check the skin under your breasts.
- Back check
Use your hand mirror to check the back of your neck, upper and lower back, arms and legs. You can do this by using your hand mirror along your body, or using your hand mirror to help you see in the full-length mirror.
- Inner leg and genital check
Use the hand mirror to check your inner thighs and genital area.
- Seated hand and foot check
Look at both sides of your hands, in between fingers and at your fingernail beds. Check tops and bottoms of feet, in between toes and your toenail beds.
- Scalp check
Part your hair with a comb or fingers in different places and check your scalp. This is a great time to enlist the help of a friend or family member.
What to look For Just a freckle or not?
Follow the ABCD guide to spot the usual signs of some skin cancers:
A = Asymmetry:
One half of the spot doesn’t match the other.
B = Border:
The edges aren’t regular. They are ragged, notched or blurred.
C = Color:
The color isn’t the same throughout the spot. There may be shades of brown, black, pink, red, white or blue.
D = Diameter:
The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about 1/4 inch, which is the size of a pencil eraser). However, some melanomas can be smaller than this.
Also look for:
- A sore that doesn’t heal after two to three months
- Changes in sensation in a spot: itchiness, tenderness or pain
- Changes in the surface of a spot: scaly, crusty, oozing or bleeding
Some skin cancers don’t follow these rules. That’s why it’s important to tell your doctor about any changes in moles, freckles or other skin spots, or new spots.
For information on protecting your skin from the sun, see Love the Sun. Love Your Skin.