Skin self-examination is a good way to detect early skin changes that may mean melanoma. Look for any abnormal skin growth or any change in the colour, shape, size, or appearance of a skin growth. Check for any area of injured skin (lesion) that does not heal. Have your spouse or someone such as a close friend help you monitor your skin, especially places that are hard to see such as your scalp and back.
A careful skin examination may identify suspicious growths that may be cancer or growths that may develop into skin cancer (precancers). Adults should examine their skin regularly.
Skin cancer often appears on the trunk of men and on the legs of women.
Get to know your moles and birthmarks, and look for any abnormal skin growth and any change in the colour, shape, size, or appearance of a skin growth.
Check for any area of skin that does not heal after an injury.
Have your doctor check your skin during any other health examinations.
Tell your doctor about any suspicious skin growths or changes in a mole.
Be aware of the risk of skin cancer and the steps you can take to prevent it, including using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and staying out of the midday sun.
For more information, see the topic Protecting Your Skin From the Sun.
Know the ABCDEs of early detection
Learn your ABCDEs, the changes in a mole or skin growth that are warning signs of melanoma:
Colour: The pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present. Dashes of red, white, and blue add to the mottled appearance. Colour may spread from the edge of a mole into the surrounding skin.
Diameter: The size of the mole is greater than 6 mm (0.25 in.), or about the size of a pencil eraser.
Evolution: There is a change in the size, shape, symptoms (such as itching or tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or colour.
A melanoma may also look like a bruise that isn't healing, or it may show up as a brown or black streak under a fingernail or toenail.
For more information, see the topic Skin Cancer, Melanoma.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2016). Screening for skin cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA, 316(4): 429–435. DOI:10.1001/jama.2016.8465. Accessed July 27, 2016.
Current as of: April 29, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.