Check Your Skin Regularly From Head to Toe

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An important part of skin cancer prevention is conducting a self-exam at home at least once a month. The best time to do a skin 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. Begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles and blemishes are and what they usually look and feel like. Check for anything new, especially a change in the size, shape, texture, or color of a mole. Also keep a look-out for sores that do not heal.

Check yourself from head to toe:

  1. Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror, then raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
  2. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides) and upper arms.
  3. Examine the back, front and sides of your legs. Also look between the buttocks and around the genital area.
  4. Sit and closely examine your feet, including the toenails, the soles and the spaces between the toes.
  5. Examine your face, especially the nose, lips, mouth and ears–front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.
  6. Look at your neck, ears and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move hair to get a better look. You can also ask a relative or friend to check through your hair because this is difficult to do yourself.

It may be helpful to record the dates of your skin exams and to write notes about the way your skin looks. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor right away.

Promptly show your doctor any:

  • Suspicious skin area
  • Non-healing sore
  • Change in a mole or freckle

For more on how to conduct a self-exam for skin cancer, please watch this video.

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