Skin Cancer Awareness Month calls attention to importance of annual skin checks


Kyra Meister

Alexandria, Va. – May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, but according to a recent survey from the Prevent Cancer Foundation, 70% of Americans 21 years of age and older have not had a skin check in the past year. Survey participants’ most cited reasons for not being checked were not experiencing symptoms (29%), not knowing they need to be checked (26%) and inability to afford the cost (23%).

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This news comes from a recent report from the Prevent Cancer Foundation that 65% of Americans 21 years of age and older say they are not up to date with one or more routine cancer screenings.1 This and other findings from the Foundation’s first annual Early Detection Survey emphasize the need for increased awareness and access to routine screenings for cancer prevention and early detection. Early detection of cancer can mean less extensive treatment, more treatment options and better chances of survival, leading to better outcomes.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in the U.S. and is also one of the most preventable cancers. Although a quarter of participants said they had a skin check for skin cancer between one and three years ago, nearly that same amount (24%) say they’ve never had a skin check for skin cancer.2

Advances in skin cancer screening and treatment have reduced the skin cancer mortality rate, but significant disparities in health outcomes persist. Anyone, regardless of skin color, may develop skin cancer. Skin cancers are less prevalent in non-white racial-ethnic groups, but when they occur, they tend to be diagnosed at a later stage and, as a result, have a worse prognosis.3 Skin cancer is less likely to be suspected in patients of color because it occurs less frequently, so these patients may be less likely to get regular full-body skin exams.4

According to survey results, Americans who said they were not up to date or did not know if they were up to date on their skin cancer check would be more likely to prioritize their screening if there was an at-home test option (28%). Currently, there is no at-home test option for skin cancer, but you should examine your skin monthly to look for possible signs of melanoma in addition to getting your skin checked annually by a health care provider. The Prevent Cancer Foundation recommends using the ABCDEs of skin cancer as a helpful tool when checking your skin for suspicious moles:

  • Asymmetry 
  • Border irregularity 
  • Color that is not uniform 
  • Diameter greater than 6mm 
  • Evolving size, shape or color

Any changes in size, shape or elevation of a mole, or any new symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting, should be reported to a health care provider.

“When it comes to cancer, early detection equals better outcomes,” said Heather Mackey, DNP, ANP-BC, AOCN, Senior Director of Cancer Prevention and Early Detection at the Prevent Cancer Foundation. “It’s important for everyone to check their health with the routine cancer screenings they need at every age. Monthly self-exams and annual skin checks are quick and easy preventive measures we can all prioritize—not just during the summer months but year-round.”

Information and resources on all cancer types studied in the 2023 Early Detection survey—including information on relevant screenings—can be found at For more information about skin cancer and ways to reduce your risk, visit

1The cancer screenings studied in this survey were for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer and testicular cancer.

2While the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) does not include screening for skin cancer in their recommendations, the Prevent Cancer Foundation encourages individuals to perform monthly skin checks and ask their health care provider for a complete body skin exam every year as part of their routine physical.

3Bradford P. T. (2009). Skin cancer in skin of color. Dermatology nursing, 21(4), 170–178


About the Prevent Cancer Foundation®

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® is the only U.S.-based nonprofit organization solely dedicated to cancer prevention and early detection. Through research, education, outreach and advocacy, we have helped countless people avoid a cancer diagnosis or detect their cancer early enough to be successfully treated. We are driven by a vision of a world where cancer is preventable, detectable and beatable for all 

The Foundation is rising to meet the challenge of reducing cancer deaths by 40% by 2035. To achieve this, we are committed to investing $20 million for innovative technologies to detect cancer early and advance multi-cancer screening, $10 million to expand cancer screening and vaccination access to medically underserved communities, and $10 million to educate the public about screening and vaccination options.

For more information, please visit