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Skin Self-Exam

1 in 5 Americans develop skin cancer in their lifetime and more than 1 million are living with Melanoma. The good news is that if detected early and properly treated, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent.

By examining yourself every month, you are the one with the best chance to spot any changes early. As part of your early detection strategy, you should also see a dermatologist at least once a year, and more often if you have a higher risk or history of skin cancer.

Skin Cancers can occur anywhere on your body, and not just areas exposed to more sun, so it’s important to be thorough with your checks. Using a full-length mirror as well as a hand mirror you can do a self-exam.


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Examine your face

Especially your nose, lips, mouth (tongue, inner cheecks) and ears — front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.

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Examine your Scalp

Checking the top and back, including your neck using both mirrors. Part your hair or use a blow dryer if needed. Ask a friend or hair-dresser to help point out any spots.


Melanoma abcde's irregular shape example

Examine your hands

Palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. 

Melanoma abcde's border example

Examine your arms

Standing in front of the full-length mirror, Bend elbows and look carefully at forearms and underarms.


Melanoma abcde's irregular shape example

Examine your torso

Next, focus on the neck, chest and torso. Lift the breasts to view the undersides.

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Examine your upper back

With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect your shoulders, upper back and any part of your upper arms you could not view.


Melanoma abcde's irregular shape example

Examine your lower back

Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks and backs of both legs.

Melanoma abcde's border example

Examine your legs

Sitting down – Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check the front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin. Then, finish with ankles and feet (the spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet.)



Skin cancer can appear in many shapes and sizes and may even look like other skin conditions. So keep notes (and pictures) to record any changes to your skin. Keep track of moles, feckles, age spots, blemishes and birthmarks so that you are aware of anything new, unsual or changing.

Skin cancer warning signs include any growth or mole that changes in size, shape, or color. Spots or sores on your skin that continues to hurt, itch, or bleed. spots on your skin that are different from the others.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, but when detected and treated early is highly treatable, so its important to remember the ABCDE’s:


Melanoma abcde's irregular shape example

A is for Asymmetry

Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves don’t match. Non-cancerous moles are typically uniform and symmetrical in shape.

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B is for Border

Melanoma often has borders that aren’t well defined or are irregular in shape, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.


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C is for Color

Melanoma lesions are often more than one color or shade, while benign moles are usually a single shade of brown. A melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black (the colors red, white or blue may also appear as it grows.)

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D is for Diameter or Dark

It’s a warning sign if a lesion is a ¼ inch in diameter or larger. It is also important to look for any lesion, no matter what size, that is darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colorless.

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E is for Evolution

Any changes in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.


If you see anything that concerns you, especially something that has just appeared or has changed recently, make sure to call us so you can have it looked at by our dermatologist.