Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Skin cancer prevention

Getting regular skin cancer exams

Regular examinations

One key way to spot skin cancer early, when it is more treatable, is to have regular skin exams that check for new or unusual growths, or changes in the size, shape or color of an existing spot. Get checked by a doctor once a year and examine yourself once a month. Report suspicious or evolving spots to your primary care physician or a dermatologist.

How to conduct a self-examination

Here are some basic instructions for conducting a monthly skin cancer self-screening:

What you'll need: A full length or large mirror, a hand-held mirror, a chair or stool, a blow dryer (optional) and a partner or spouse to help, if possible

When to perform the checks: Once a month

Where to go: In a private room, such as a bathroom or bedroom, with plenty of light

Starting with the top of your head, look for new spots, irregular or raised spots or spots that have changed or grown since your last examination. Use a blow dryer to clear away hair for a better look at the scalp.

Move down the face, examining the forehead, nose and checks. Feel around your lips for uneven spots. Using the hand-held mirror, look behind your ears or the back of the neck and shoulders. Ask your partner or spouse to help, if necessary, and have them examine your back and the backs of your legs.

Check down your arms and hands. Don't forget to look at your fingernails and between your fingers. Lift the arms and check the armpits and each side of the torso. Women should lift their breasts and examine the skin beneath them.

Sit on the stool and check the legs, feet, soles of the feet and between the toes.

The Skin Cancer Foundation provides a body map to help you keep a record of suspicious spots, and advises that you bring it when you see the doctor for your annual physical.


Last Revised: 07/24/2017

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