Skip Navigation

Prevention Strategies

Examine Your Skin

Skin cancer is highly curable and when detected early, can be treated and removed. Check your skin on a monthly basis and consult a physician immediately if you notice changes in your skin.

(Not all skin cancers are melanomas. To learn about the other types, visit the Skin Cancer page.)

What to look for when checking for melanoma:

The 'ABCDE' rule is used to look for skin changes such as spots, moles or sores that do not heal.

A is for Asymmetry. One half of the mole or birthmark does not match the other.

Image of asymmetrical mole

B is for Border. The edges are ragged, irregular, or poorly defined.

Image of a mole with an irregular border

C is for Color. The color varies from one area to another, and may have shades of brown, black, white, red or blue.

Image of a mole with varying color

D is for Diameter. The area is larger than 6 mm (think of the size of a pencil eraser) and is growing larger.

Image of a growing mole

E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color, elevation, or any other new traits.

How to look for it:

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests the following monthly self skin exam routine:

Image of skin self exam - look carefully at forearms and upper underams and palmsImage of skin self exam - look at the backs of the legsImage of skin self exam - look at the spaces between toes and the soleImage of skin self exam - part hair for a closer look at the scalpImage of skin self exam - examine back of neck and scalp with a hand mirror

  1. Examine your body front and back in the mirror, then right and left sides arms raised.
  2. Bend elbows and look carefully at forearms and upper underarms and palms.
  3. Look at the backs of the legs and feet, spaces between toes, and sole.
  4. Examine back of neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair for a closer look.
  5. Finally, check back and buttocks with hand mirror.

Tracking your moles:

Think about tracking your moles to evaluate changes in your skin over time. This is especially true for individuals with many moles. Download this body diagram and mark where all of the moles occur on your body. Another option is to take photographs of your moles and keep them on file. Use the photographs and the body map when you are checking your skin and if you see any changes go to your doctor. When you visit the doctor take the body diagram and photos with you as tools to aid in your discussion.