Skin self-exam means checking your own skin regularly for any abnormal growths or unusual changes. A skin self-exam helps find any suspicious skin problems early. The earlier skin cancer is diagnosed, the better chance you will have for a cure.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommend that people perform a skin self-exam once a month.
The easiest time to do the exam may be after you take a bath or shower. Women may wish to perform their skin self-exam when they do their monthly breast self-exam. Men may want to do the skin self-exam when they perform their monthly testicular self-exam.
Ideally, the room should have a full-length mirror and bright lights so that you can see your entire body.
When you are performing the skin self-exam, look for:
- New skin markings (moles, blemishes, colorations, bumps)
- Moles that have changed in size, texture, color, or shape
- Moles or lesions that continue to bleed or won't heal
- Moles with uneven edges, differences in color, or lack of symmetry
- Any mole or growth that appears very different from other skin growths
Experts recommend that you examine your skin in the following way:
- Look closely at your entire body, both front and back, in the mirror.
- Check under your arms and both sides of each arm.
- Examine your forearms after bending your arms at the elbows, and then look at the palms of your hands and underneath your upper arms.
- Look at the front and back of both legs.
- Look at your buttocks and between your buttocks.
- Examine your genital area.
- Look at your face, neck, back of neck, and scalp. It is best to use both a hand mirror and full-length mirror, along with a comb, to see areas of your scalp.
- Look at your feet, including the soles and the space between your toes.
- Have a person you trust help by examining hard-to-see areas.
Always tell your doctor if:
- You have any new or unusual sores or spots on your skin
- A mole or skin lesion changes in size, color, or texture
- You have a sore that does not heal
Review Date: 8/12/2009
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, M.D., Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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