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How to Perform a Skin Cancer Self Exam

skin cancer self exam

 As your largest organ, your skin plays a big role in detecting what’s going on in your body. Your skin can signal numerous diseases and conditions by displaying specific symptoms from extreme dryness, breakouts, and rashes. Most of us are guilty of chalking it up to something we ate, drank, weather conditions or something we came in contact with. While these are usually the culprits, that’s not always the case.

Just as your eyes are a window to your soul, your skin is a window to your health. It’s up to you to take notice of what your skin is trying to show you and take serious measures to have it looked at by a professional.

Skin Cancer Self Exam

The Itchies

There are a wide range of reasons that severe itchiness could occur. Most of them have to do with the world around us rather than internal body issues. This includes your body’s natural allergic reactions to foods, chemicals, and animal bites and stings. Treatments include ointments like antihistamine or special creams and gels that moisturize and cool skin. Avoiding scratching is obviously recommended in these situations.

Common skin issues like eczema, dry skin, and dermatitis could also be to blame but certain cancers could also trigger an itch response. These cancers could be leukemia and lymphoma. Liver disease and kidney failure are also possible culprits. Consulting with your health provider is always a good idea if your itchiness is concerning.

Dark Spots Under the Nails

Dark spots on or under your nail could signify many different conditions. Some you don’t have to worry about while others may mean something more serious. If simple trauma or impacts aren’t to blame for it, then it could be a sign of melanoma. Other causes of these dark spots may include HIV, Scleroderma, and Lupus. Melanoma typically appears more like vertical strips, parallel to the natural ridges in the nail. Your queue to see a doctor again is when it presents itching or pain. 

Yellow Lumps Beneath the Skin

Xanthomas is mainly recognized as an increase or growth of fat under the skin, most commonly near extremities and joints like fingers, elbows, knees, and feet. These yellow and sometimes white patches can signal some of the most common and dangerous health problems. Less intense outcomes are just high blood fats and lipids. Other disorders may be diabetes, cirrhosis, pancreatitis and some cancers. Xanthomas aren’t painful but can be quite hard to predict, as they can still show up just about anywhere on the body. There is even a special type of Xanthoma- Xanthelasma is simply described as Xanthomas on the eyelids.

Thinning Eyebrows

Thinning eyebrows can be explained by many things but is most commonly the result of a nutrient deficiency. Most notably are iron protein and “B” vitamins like B7 and B12. More dermatologic reasons can be ingrown hairs and follicle damage but infections can also be a contributing factor. Sometimes thinning eyebrows are a simple sign of aging that can be fixed by skin hydration and less exposure to heat. On the more serious side is eczema, which is still fairly common, especially in younger children but will need a plan of action to keep symptoms from becoming worse.

Other Skin Conditions to Beware Of:

A Pimple That Doesn't Heal or Bleeds

Dry Patches That Don't Improve


Unexplained Rash

New Freckle or Skin Tag

Major Breakouts

When it comes to moles, use the ABCDEs as a guide but keep in mind that not every mole fits all or any of the characteristics. Any new mole should be seen by a dermatologist immediately

  • Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other half
  • Border: The border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular
  • Color: The mole has different colors or it has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red
  • Diameter: The diameter of the mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil
  • Evolving: The mole appears different from others and/or changing in size, color, shape

As with any illness or disease early detection is key so don’t be afraid to check your body on a regular basis. This is best done before or after a shower and requires a full-size mirror, hand mirror, blow dryer, good lighting, and if possible, a second pair of eyes. Follow these easy steps to perform a skin cancer self-exam.

skin cancer self exam body check

  • Remove your clothing and stand facing the full-size mirror. Start by checking your chest, shoulders, arms, and armpits.
  • Next move down and check the fronts of your thighs and calves.
  • Now, bend your elbows and check your forearms, elbows, backs, and palms of your hands, fingers, and fingernails.
  • The next step will use the hand mirror. Check the backs of your legs, bottom of your feet, between your toes, and your toenails.
  • Be sure to check the back of your neck along with your buttocks, genitalia, and lower back ( the back is the most common location for melanoma). 
  • Finally, use a blowdryer to check your scalp.
  • Use a second person to double check hard to view areas such as the backside of your body and your scalp. 

Skin cancer melanoma self exam


Should you find any abnormal moles, patches, or lumps on your skin be sure to consult your dermatologist immediately.

Bonus: Routinely doing a self-exam is also a good time to check for other health issues such a breast cancer and will make your chances of early detection much greater.

Remember that one of the best ways to protect your skin and prevent skin cancer is by wearing sunscreen. Mineral sunscreen is the best option, and ZINC IT OVER® features Non-Nano Zinc Oxide, which is the safest, most effective sunscreen ingredient, so you’re getting the protection you want without any harmful side effects. Click here to get a bottle today!

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