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.

You will need

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

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.

Step 2 Check after bathing Check yourself immediately after bathing so you’re clean—and naked. It is important to check your entire body.

Step 3 Examine hands Examine your hands, including your palms and fingernails.

Step 4 Use full-length mirror Use the full-length mirror to inspect your arms, elbows, and underarms.

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.

Step 6 Check chest & back Check your chest and back and beneath your breasts if you have them.

Step 7 Inspect genital region Use the hand mirror to inspect your genital region.

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.

Step 9 Inspect legs & feet Sit down to inspect your legs and feet more closely.

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.