How to Check Yourself for Skin Cancer

Most dermatologists recommend examining your skin once a month to become familiar with what it looks like normally—so you'll be able to recognize something that's abnormal. And since skin cancer is curable if caught in an early stage, your life just might depend on it.

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You Will Need

  • A full-length mirror
  • A handheld mirror
  • Good lighting
  • A camera (optional)
  • A blow-dryer (optional)

Steps

  1. Step 1

    Look for ABCD's

    Familiarize yourself with the ABCD's—that is, asymmetry, border, color, and diameter. Moles or birthmarks that are asymmetrical, have a jagged or irregular border, are blotchy or not all one color, or are bigger than about the size of a pencil eraser should be seen by a doctor.

  2. Step 2

    Check after bathing

    Check yourself immediately after bathing so you're clean—and naked. It is important to check your entire body.

  3. Step 3

    Examine hands

    Examine your hands, including your palms and fingernails.

  4. Step 4

    Use full-length mirror

    Use the full-length mirror to inspect your arms, elbows, and underarms.

  5. Take pictures of moles or birthmarks so that you'll have something to reference if someday you're unsure whether the mark has changed in appearance.

  6. Step 5

    Check face, neck, & head

    Check your face, neck, and head in the full-length mirror, and use a handheld mirror to see the back side.

  7. When checking your scalp, it is helpful to have blow-dryer on hand to make parting your hair a bit easier.

  8. Step 6

    Check chest & back

    Check your chest and back and beneath your breasts if you have them.

  9. Men should pay special attention to the trunk and women to their legs—these are the most common areas for them to develop melanomas, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

  10. Step 7

    Inspect genital region

    Use the hand mirror to inspect your genital region.

  11. Step 8

    Inspect legs & buttocks

    Turn your back to the full-length mirror and use the handheld mirror to inspect the backs of your legs and buttocks.

  12. Step 9

    Inspect legs & feet

    Sit down to inspect your legs and feet more closely.

  13. Step 10

    See a doctor

    If anything seems to fit the ABCD rule, if anything is new or has changed since your last check, if you have a sore that won't heal, or if you're uncertain about anything you find, see a doctor.

  14. Every year in the U.S., over 1.3 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer, making it the most common form of cancer.

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