Skin self-exam

A skin self-exam is used to identify suspicious growths that may be cancer or growths that may develop into skin cancer (precancers). Adults should examine their skin once every month. Look for any abnormal skin growth or any change in the color, shape, size, or appearance of a skin growth. Check for any area of injured skin (lesion) that does not heal.

See an illustration of a skin self-exam.

To perform a skin self-exam:

  • Stand in front of a full-length mirror. Examine your body front and back, then examine your right and left sides with your arms raised.
  • Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, the back of your upper arms, and your palms.
  • Look at your feet, the soles of your feet, and the spaces between your toes.
  • Using a hand mirror, look at:
    • The back of your legs.
    • The back of your neck and scalp. Part your hair to look at your scalp.
    • Your back, buttocks, and genital area.

You can also have your spouse or someone such as a close friend help you monitor your skin, especially places that are hard to see such as your scalp and back.

If you see a suspicious skin growth during your self-exam, contact your health professional.

Last Updated: December 5, 2008

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