How to Check Your Skin for Skin Cancer

 Learn to examine your largest organ for five signs of cancer.

New video demonstrates how to do a skin self-exam and what to look for:

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and finding spots that could be cancerous is as simple as looking at your skin. Now a new video, “Skin Self-Exam: How to Do,” from the American Academy of Dermatology demonstrates how to check your skin and what to look for.

Skin Self-Exam: How to Do

“Checking your skin for skin cancer only requires your eyes and a mirror. Involving a partner adds another set of eyes, which is especially helpful when checking the back and other hard-to-see areas,” said Thomas E. Rohrer, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Chestnut Hill, Mass. “Examining your skin only takes a few minutes, but it could save your life.”

When examining the skin, look for the ABCDEs of Melanoma and make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist if any moles exhibit these signs:

A – Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.
B – Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C – Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown, or black, or with areas of white, red or blue.
D – Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm, or about the size of a pencil eraser when they are diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
E – Evolving: A mole or spot on your skin that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.

To check your skin, look at the front and back of your body. When examining your own skin, stand in front of a mirror. Examine your skin by following these steps:

1.     Raise the arms and examine the right and left sides of the body.

2.     Then bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, upper underarms and palms.

3.     Next, examine the back of your legs, spaces between your toes and your soles.

4.     Then, examine those hard-to see areas like your back, buttocks and the top of your head. Use a mirror to inspect the back of your neck and scalp, parting your hair for a better view.

“Current estimates show one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, so it’s important to be familiar with your skin, especially your moles,” said Dr. Rohrer. “Catching skin cancer early is key for successful treatment, so check your skin regularly and see a board-certified dermatologist if you spot anything suspicious.”

The American Academy of Dermatology’s Body Mole Map helps people keep a record of moles that are growing, bleeding, itching or changing. The Body Mole Map is a resource of the Academy’s SPOT Skin Cancer® public awareness initiative. Visitors to the program’s website——also can find stories of those affected by skin cancer and free downloadable materials to educate others in their community.

The “Skin Self-Exam: How to Do” video is posted to the Academy’s website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the Dermatology A to Z: Video Series, which offers relatable videos that demonstrate tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails. A new video in the series will be posted to the Academy’s website and the YouTube channel each month.


Read more on Cancer.

About Dr. Thomas Rohrer

Dr. Rohrer is a magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University and the Georgetown University School of Medicine. He was the recipient of the Michael J. Caruso Award, given to the medical graduate who best exemplified humanitarian care to their patients. Dr. Rohrer completed his internship in internal medicine at Yale University Hospital and a residency in dermatology at the combined Boston University-Tufts University program. He completed a Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Rohrer practices in Chestnut Hill, Mass.


  1. snuffleupagus says:

    Nothing is a waste of money if it can save your life! Skin cancer is series, as we all know, and the earlier you catch it the better.

  2. I should probably go to molescan n check all mine out. Yay more money to throw away!

  3. Joanna Schroeder says:

    Very important note – if you ever find a new freckle between toes, between fingers, palms of hands or soles of feet, always have your doctor look at it. I had one show up between my toes at age 33, a small freckle, and after biopsy turned out to be a melanoma with fragmented cells at the border… which is really bad. It was just there one week and got bigger over the next month, but always smaller than a grain of rice and flat. Seemed so innocuous. Ended up needing surgery by a plastic surgeon so they could reconstruct it so it would be functional, which it is. It was an easy procedure but they said it was GREAT I caught it ASAP – because someone told me you shouldn’t get new freckles between toes/soles of feet/palm of hands so I checked it out!

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