How can I check my skin for cancer?

First, let me state for the record that I don’t like putting the responsibility of knowing what to look for in patients. Being proactive is about scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist if you’ve never been to one, and being diligent about regular checkups. That said, here’s what to look for: funny, changing spots or moles. The A, B, C, Ds to check:

  • Asymmetry - half of the spot doesn’t match or look like the other half.
  • Borders that are irregular - ragged, notched, or blurred around the edges.
  • Color changes - say, from tan to black or red to bluish.
  • Diameter - anything larger than a pencil eraser (6 millimeters) should be scrutinized, in addition to anything that’s started growing. Regardless of these ABCDs, the best piece of advice is this: When in doubt, get it checked out, and visit a dermatologist once a year to have a complete body exam.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.


Examine your skin once a month for any suspicious changes. Sores that won't heal may also indicate skin cancer or precancerous conditions that need attention.

The American Academy of Dermatology has developed an easy-to-use method to evaluate your skin for melanoma. Look for the "ABCDEs":

  • Asymmetry: One half of the spot is not shaped like the other half.
  • Border irregularity: A poorly defined or "scalloped" border.
  • Color: Shades of tan, brown, black and sometimes red, white and blue, vary across the spot.
  • Diameter: The spot is larger than six millimeters, the diameter of a pencil eraser, however, skin cancers can also be smaller.
  • Evolving: The mole looks different from the other moles on the body and is changing in size, shape or color.




Continue Learning about Skin Cancer Diagnosis

How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed?
How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed?
What Happens During a Skin Cancer Screening?
What Happens During a Skin Cancer Screening?
What Are the Benefits of Skin Cancer Screening?
What Are the Benefits of Skin Cancer Screening?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.