Skin cancer – self checks

Our doctors will provide further advice on doing you self-check at home, but here is a guideline to help you get started:

  • Set aside about 10 minutes of your time. Don’t rush your check or you may miss a skin cancer that’s just beginning to form – and the earlier you catch one, the better for your health.
  • Take note of the pattern of moles, freckles, blemishes, scars and other markings on your skin so you can be aware of any changes. You may even want to take a photograph of particularly spotty areas to help you remember.
  • Facing a full-length mirror, check your front from head to toe. Carefully check your scalp (you may need a comb to part the hair), forehead, face (including eyelids), ears, neck, chest and stomach. Women will also need to lift their breasts to check the skin underneath. Then check your armpits, your arms on both sides, your hands and palms, including in between your fingers, and even around and below your fingernails – skin cancers can occur anywhere!
  • Sit down on a firm-based chair, such as a dining chair. Now check the fronts of your thighs, in between your thighs and the genital area, your shins, the tops of your feet, in between your toes and toenail area, and the bottom of your feet.
  • Stand up and turn your back to the full-length mirror and check the back of your neck, your entire back, buttocks, the backs of your thighs and your calves. Use a hand-held mirror or ask a partner for help as needed.

What to look for

There different types of skin cancer which can look different to each other. It’s most important to look for any changes in the skin, such as new spots or moles, and especially look for changes to existing freckles, spots or moles. For melanoma, an easy way to remember the warning signs is the ABCD’s:

A for Asymmetry: If both sides of a mole or lesion are asymmetrical, it could be a warning sign.

B for Border: Benign moles tend to have a smooth border whereas melanomas are likely to have a variegated border shape.

C for Colour: Most benign moles are uniform in colour. Look out for moles and spots that have two or more shades of tan, black or brown. A melanoma can also become red, white or blue.

D for Diameter: Melanomas are usually slightly larger in diameter than benign moles, about 6mm or more. However; they can be smaller when they first start to grow, so if you notice other warning signs, don’t ignore them because the lesion has a small diameter.

E for Evolution: Look for any change in symmetry, border, colour or diameter. Changes in elevation, new itchiness or bleeding from a mole may also be a warning sign.

In case of BCCs and SCCs, look for changes in the skin, and for pimples or bumps that don’t seem to heal. Dry, scaly patches of skin that bleed easily or begin to ulcerate may also be a warning sign.

If you notice anything suspicious, come in and see one of our skin cancer doctors for a professional assessment. Most skin cancer cases can be treated successfully if they are detected early.