How To Examine Your Skin

Don’t be shy!
This was adapted from the website of Dr. Norman Goldstein of Honolulu. Dr. Goldstein is one of the foremost proponents of skin self-examination and the dermatologist who coined the phrase “Practice Safe Sun.”

Careful examination of your skin every month will improve your chances of finding early warning signs of skin cancer. This is especially important if:

  • You have fair skin and sunburn easily.
  • You have had several blistering sunburns.
  • You have had a lot of moles on your body.
  • You have a family history of skin cancer.

Examine your skin in a well-lighted room using a full length mirror and a smaller hand mirror. Undress completely and examine every inch of your skin, including hard to see places. You may want to have someone else help you.

  1. Examine your entire face including lips and eyelids. Inspect your scalp, neck, and tops of your ears.
  2. Examine the front and back of your body. Raise your arms and look at your sides. Check the skin under your breasts.
  3. Check all sides of your arms and hands, including between your fingers and fingernails.
  4. Examine the back and front of your legs. Use the hand mirror to scan your buttocks and genitals.
  5. Sit down to check your ankles and feet, including the soles and between your toes.

Contact your health care provides right away if you notice any changes in your skin such as a new mole or change in an existing mole and remember your A B C’s

Malignant melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer. However, when it is found early, treatment can be very successful. Monthly self-examination is the best way to become familiar with the moles, freckles, and spots on your skin. A change in a mole or spot may be the first sign of skin cancer.

Malignant melanomas do not usually look like normal moles. A handy way to remember the features of melanoma is to think of A-B-C-D.

A – Asymmetry. One side of the mole doesn’t match the other side. Normal moles are round or oval.

B – Border irregularity. The edges of the mole are uneven, scalloped, or notched. The edge can look blurred. Normal moles have smooth, even borders.

C – Color. The mole may have different shades of brown or black, and possibly spots of red or blue. Normal moles are usually a single shade of brown.

D – Diameter. Any mole or growth larger than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser or 1/4″) is a matter of concern. Normal moles are usually smaller.

Keep in mind that change in a preexisting lestion is the most important finding. This means observable growth over a period of weeks to months. Bening lesions can grow slowly over years, but malignant lesions usually change over weeks to months. Change over a few days most often is associated with inflammation or infection.

If in doubt, please contact your dermatologist.