Skin cancer is very treatable if found early. That’s why it’s great to have an annual skin exam, head-to-toe, by a dermatologist to look for any suspicious spots. In between, you should perform a skin self-examination on a regular basis. We’ve provided detailed instructions on how to do so below. Consider enlisting the help of a loved one to examine those hard-to-see areas.


Perform Regular Skin Self-Examinations

You can do your part to fight skin cancer by doing frequent self-examinations, which will help the effort to catch skin cancer early and when it is most treatable. We recommend performing these examinations monthly—check with your doctor regarding what frequency is right for you.

The following illustrations show how to do a skin self-examination. You will need a handheld mirror as well as a free-standing mirror. It’s also nice to have someone to assist you.

1. Examine your face, especially the nose, lips, mouth, and ears—front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.
2. Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help if you can.
3. Check your hands carefully: palms and backs, between the fingers, and under fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both the front and back of your forearms.
4. Standing in front of a full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Don’t forget the underarms.
5. Next focus on the neck, chest, and torso. Women (and men with prominent breast tissue) should lift breasts to view the underside.
6. With your back to the full-length mirror, use a handheld mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back, and any part of the back of your arms you could not view in step 5.
7. Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks, and the backs of both legs.
8. Sit down; prop each leg in turn on another stool or chair. Use the handheld mirror to examine the genitals and mucosal area. Check the front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin; ankles, tops of feet, between toes, and under toenails. Examine soles of feet and heels.