The second part of an honest skin assessment involves inspecting your entire body for new or changing moles and markings. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should examine your body from head to toe, making sure to check easy-to-overlook areas like your scalp, the soles of your feet and the backs of your legs [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. For best results, perform your inspection in a very bright room, using both a full-length mirror and a hand mirror [source: Skin Cancer Foundation]. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends this eight-step skin self-exam.
As you perform your self-exam, be on the lookout for any moles, blemishes, bumps and lesions. Take note of moles with uneven borders, differences in color, asymmetric halves or a diameter greater than 4 millimeters [source: Puniewska]. Since these can be warning signs of skin cancer, you should see a doctor if you notice anything suspicious. A mole you've had forever that seems to have undergone a change is also a red flag, Day says. "If something that's always been there all of a sudden looks different, you should bring it to the attention of your dermatologist," she explains.
Many skin growths, such as seborrheic keratosis and cherry hemangiomas, are very common but completely benign, so don't panic if you notice a new mark, Day says. She recommends annual screenings with a dermatologist, which will help you understand the moles and bumps you already have. "You'll have your own personal map of what to look out for, what's there, what's okay," she says.
Then, Day suggests, follow up the yearly appointment with periodic self-exams. "If you do a regular skin check -- let's say once every two to three months -- you get to know the spots that you have," she says. "You get to see what's stable and what's evolving."
For more information about skin types, skin cancer and when to see a dermatologist, check out the links on the next page.
More Great Links
- American Academy of Dermatology. "How to perform a self-exam." (September 4, 2013) http://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/understanding-skin-cancer/how-do-i-check-my-skin/how-to-perform-a-self-exam
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Skin cancer prevention tips." (September 4, 2013) http://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/understanding-skin-cancer/how-do-i-prevent-skin-cancer/skin-cancer-prevention-tips
- Baumann, Leslie. "Save Money: Know Your Skin Type." Yahoo! Health. February 25, 2009. (September 4, 2013) http://health.yahoo.net/experts/skintype/save-money-know-your-skin-type/
- Cleveland Clinic. "Know Your Own Skin Type Before Choosing Skin Care Products." (September 4, 2013) http://my.clevelandclinic.org/healthy_living/skin_care/hic_know_your_own_skin_type_before_choosing_skin_care_products.aspx
- Day, Doris. Personal interview. August 26, 2013.
- Puniewska, Maggie. "How to Perform a Self-Exam for Skin Cancer." Health.com. August 23, 2013. (September 4, 2013) http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/perform-exam-skin-cancer/story?id=20029182#
- Skin Cancer Foundation. "Early Detection and Self Exams." (September 4, 2013) http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/early-detection
- Skin Cancer Foundation. "Step by Step Self-Examination." (September 4, 2013) http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/early-detection/step-by-step-self-examination