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How often should I check my skin for cancer?

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine
As far as routine screening, there isn’t a set schedule. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) states that how regularly someone needs a formal physician skin exam really depends on one’s health history. People at a higher risk for melanoma (such as having a strong family history of melanoma or many atypical moles) would likely need an annual exam. The AAD offers free screenings for skin cancer with their SPOTme program. You can also ask your primary care doctor.
 
For self-screening, the AAD doesn’t give a specific time frame, but advises that you monitor your skin for any changes. I always advise everyone to keep an eye out for any new moles or skin changes. Regardless of any schedule you may be on for formal examination or screening, if you notice a change to a birthmark or mole, or any other skin change, you should schedule an evaluation with your doctor or dermatologist.       
Dr. Doris Day, MD
Dermatology
Spend a few minutes once a month to give yourself a thorough once-over to check for skin cancer. Do this in daylight lighting in front of a full length mirror. It is a good idea to do your breast self-exam on the same day. If you see any changes in your existing moles or if you spot new moles or non-healing growths, make an appointment with your dermatologist as soon as possible. Remember, although some people are at greater risk than others, everyone is at risk. A monthly self-check greatly increases your chances of finding any problems at an early stage when cure is the rule. Pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions can be safely and completely removed with microscopic surgery in your dermatologist’s office.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
You should check your skin for skin cancer at least once a year by taking the "birthday suit test." Learn more about this topic in this video with Dr. Oz.



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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.