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how to perform skin cancer self-exams

How to Perform Regular Skin Self-Exams

One common misconception about skin cancer is that only those with fair complexions are at risk. However, anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of skin color. It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

You can detect skin cancer early by learning how to perform regular skin self-exams using the American Academy of Dermatology’s Body Mole Map and the ABCDEs of identifying pre-cancerous skin spots.

When caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable. Using the following steps to check for melanoma regularly will help you keep tabs on the health of your own skin.

1. Get a partner to help. They can check hard-to-see places like your back and provide a second opinion if a mole or spot looks suspicious or abnormal.

2.  Look for the ABCDEs of Melanoma:

  • Asymmetry. Is one side of the mole or spot different than the other?
  • Border. Does the spot or mole have an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border?
  • Color. Does the spot have varying, blotchy colors from one area to another? Are they different shades of black, brown, or red?
  • Diameter. Melanomas are usually larger than 6mm in diameter or about the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving. Do you have any spots that have changed in shape, size, or appearance over the years?

3  Use a body mole map from the American Academy of Dermatology to chart your moles and cross-reference abnormal spots. This will help you track any changes or make note of suspicious spots.

4  Examine your body standing in front of a mirror. Start by examining the front of your body in the mirror. Raise your arms and look under your armpits or areas that typically are covered by clothing most of the time. Look for new spots or abnormal moles. Examine the front and back of both your arms and hands. Next, examine your legs and feet, including between your toes and the soles of your feet. Get your partner to help you check hard-to-see areas like the back and top of your head, and your back, legs, and buttocks. You can use a smaller handheld mirror to examine your neck and scalp if you don’t have a partner to help.

If you notice any abnormalities, contact your dermatologist right away. Noticing the signs of melanoma or skin cancer early is crucial for successful treatment and outcomes.


Lastly, be sure to schedule regular skin cancer screenings and checkups with a dermatologist or primary care provider. Contact DermaBlue today to schedule a comprehensive skin exam by one of our professional staff.