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Updated 12 January 2009

How to do a skin self-examination

Are you at risk of skin cancer? Then your doctor may recommend that you do a regular skin self-examination. Follow this step-by-step guide.

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Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and the leading cause of death from skin disease. Could you be at risk of skin cancer? On National Melanoma Day (4 August 2012), take a few minutes to do a skin self-examination and watch the poignant "Dear 16-year-old me" video below. It could save your life.

The best time to do a skin self-examination is after a shower or bath. You should check your skin in a well-lighted room using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. It’s best to begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles, and blemishes are and what they usually look and feel like.

Check for anything new:

Check yourself from head to toe. Don’t forget to check all areas of the skin, including the back, the scalp, between the buttocks, and the genital area:

  • Look at your face, neck, ears and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move your hair so that you can see better. You also may want to have a relative or friend check through your hair because this is difficult to do yourself.
  • Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror, then raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
  • Bend your elbows and look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides) and upper arms.
  • Examine the back, front and sides of your legs. Also look between your buttocks and around your genital area.
  • Sit and closely examine your feet, including the toenails, the soles, and the spaces between the toes.

By checking your skin regularly, you will become familiar with what is normal for you. It may be helpful to record the dates of your skin examinations and to write notes about the way your skin looks. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor right away.

- (US National Cancer Institute and Health24, updated August 2012)

 To learn more about melanoma watch this video:




Read more:

Risk factors for skin cancer
Skin cancer and safety on the road
Sunbeds a killer
 

 
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