Before you begin
Ideally, the time to do a self-check is when you’re already naked, like before or after you shower or bathe. “We recommend performing monthly skin exams so any new or changing lesions can be detected early,” says surgical and cosmetic dermatologist Adele Haimovic, MD, an associate at the office of Lance H. Brown, MD. But it can be difficult to remember where you spotted something or if a mole really grew or changed color from one month to the other. “Making a note in a journal is a great idea, and taking pictures are even better! It’s always easy to reference a phone picture and then there is little question if it has changed,” says Dr. Haimovic. Here’s a guide to inspecting moles on your skin.
Between your lower digits
When you’re slathering on sunscreen, it’s easy to skip over the areas in between your toes; it’s even more common to completely ignore this area when doing a skin cancer self-check. If you discover pink, pearly, or scaly spots or sores that won’t heal, it could be a sign of a nonmelanoma skin cancer says Dr. Haimovic. Luckily, nonmelanoma skin cancer is highly curable if found and treated early. “For melanomas, we want to check for a new brown or black spot, however melanomas can lack pigment and present as a pink or red spot,” says Dr. Haimovic. These are the sunscreen mistakes dermatologists wish you wouldn’t make.
Your shutters and peepers
Even if you have an assortment of sunglasses that protect your peepers, you shouldn’t ignore your eyelids and eyebrows when checking for skin cancer. The eyelids are one of the most common sites for nonmelanoma skin cancers, says Steven Wang, MD, dermatologist and founder of Dr. Wang Herbal Skincare. The lower eyelid is the most common—44 percent occur there—and the inner eyelid is responsible for 19 percent, according to the Skin Care Foundation. If you discover lumps and bumps that bleed or don’t go away, swollen eyelids or red eye that doesn’t respond to medication, unexplained loss of eyelashes, or the sudden appearance of flat or pigmented lesions with irregular growth and borders, call your doc.