Dr. Schlesinger Says: How to Perform a Self Skin Exam

One big difference in skin cancer, when compared with other cancers, is that you can see it and catch it yourself. While the most common, it can also be the easiest to cure if caught and treated early. We recommend performing self skin exams in between your dermatology visits to keep an eye on your skin. Not sure how to perform one correctly? Follow these 5 simple steps to check your skin. (You will need a full length mirror and a hand mirror):

1. Face & Scalp – Inspect your entire face, including your ears both front and back. To check your scalp, use a hair dryer to help separate the hair and your mirrors to see better.
2. Hands & Arms – Pick your right or left hand and start with your fingers, checking under your nails and between each finger. Slowly start checking the front and back of your hand then advance to your wrist and lower arm, using the mirror to closely examine any suspicious areas. Stand in front of your full length mirror to examine your upper arm. Be sure not to forget under arms! Repeat with opposite hand / arm when completed.
3. Neck, Chest & Torso – Starting at the top of the neck, thoroughly scan down to check for any changes in your skin. Use your hand mirror to examine any areas closer.
4. Back – Stand with your back facing a full length mirror. Use a hand mirror, starting at the top of your neck, and thoroughly check the back of your neck, your shoulders, and your upper and lower back.
5. Legs & Feet – Still with both mirrors, scan the back of your upper leg before sitting down to examine the rest of your leg. Be sure when checking your feet to look under your nails, between your toes, and on the soles of your feet as well. Repeat for these steps for your opposite leg.

When conducting your self exam, note any areas of changes on a piece of paper and keep a log of your exams. (You can download a really great Mole Map from the AAD here!) If you have any concerns about these areas, contact your dermatologist to have them checked professionally.

It’s that simple – just a few steps and about 30 minutes once a month can help detect early stages of skin cancer.  For more information on skin cancer and suspicious moles, please continue reading on our web site.

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