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Skin Self-Examination

How to perform a skin self-examination

Finding suspicious moles or skin cancer early is the key to treating skin cancer successfully. A skin self-examination is usually the first step in detecting skin cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) suggests once-a-month skin self-examinations.�The following method of self-examination is from the ACS (you will need a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, and a brightly lit room):

  • Examine your body front and back in mirror, then the right and left sides, with your arms raised.

  • Have a family member or close friend help with the exam. When a trusted person finds a suspicious lesion, you may be more willing to acknowledge there is a problem. In addition, another person will be able to look at hard-to-see areas, such as the nape of the neck or under the hairline.�

  • Bend your elbows, look carefully at your forearms, the back of your upper arms, and the palms of your hands.

  • Look at the backs of your legs and feet, spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet.

  • Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror.

  • Check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror.

  • Become familiar with your skin and the pattern of your moles, freckles, and other marks.

  • Be alert to changes in the number, size, shape, and color of pigmented areas.

  • Watch for an "ugly duckling sign" on your skin,�such as a spot that looks different from all other marks on your skin.

  • Follow the ABCDE chart when examining moles of other pigmented areas and consult your�doctor promptly if you notice any changes. The ABCDEs are:

    • A. Refers to asymmetry. One-half of the mole or birthmark is different than the other half.

    • B. Refers to border. The mole's edges are irregular or blurred.

    • C. Refers to color. The mole's color is brown, black, or has patches of red, white, pink, or blue.

    • D. Refers to diameter. The mole or spot is larger than 6 millimeters, or about 1/4 inch?the size of a pencil eraser.

    • E. Refers to evolving changes. Look for changes in the size, shape, or color of existing moles.��

In addition to the ABCDE guidelines, other warning signs include:

  • Changes in how the area feels, such as�itching, tenderness, or pain

  • Changes in the skin's surface, such as oozing, bleeding, or scaliness

  • A sore that does not heal

  • New swelling or redness beyond the border of the mole

Remember that not all moles follow the ABCDE rules or the additional warning signs. It is important �to notify your�doctor about any skin changes that look different from the rest of your moles, freckles, or other marks.��