How to Perform Self Skin Exams

An important aspect of detecting skin cancer early is performing self-exams of your skin. Make sure you have good light, either a full-length mirror (or a small chair or stool), and a hand mirror.

From head to toe

First, examine the face: pay special attention to the eyes (even behind the ears), lips, nose and ears.  Using a hand mirror will help you see both sides of the face.

With a hand mirror, check the scalp.  The amount of hair you have will determine how long this step will take.  Begin by making small parts in the hair and inspecting the scalp between the parts.  Continue until you have inspected the entire scalp

Now, inspect the hands.  Make sure to spread your fingers to check the interlacing skin.  Check the underneath the nails and the surface of the nails for any changes.

In front of the full-length mirror, survey the entire front of the body.  It’s easiest to go top to bottom; so begin at the neck.  If you are a woman, make sure to lift the breasts to inspect the skin underneath.  Lift your arms over your head to see the skin under the arms and the skin on the sides of the body.

Turn around to examine the back of the torso. Use your hand mirror and start from the back of your neck and examine down the entire back.

Now, inspect the buttocks and the entire posterior surfaces of both legs.

Now examine the front of the legs and feet.  For this step, you may feel more comfortable sitting down.  Using your hand mirror, inspect the groin area, the front of the legs, the knees, and your lower legs.  Moving down to the feet, examine the tops of the feet, the skin between the toenails, underneath the toenails, and the toenails themselves.