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Do your own skin check

How to do a skin check

Know your skin

Getting to know your skin will help identify any changes and should be a part of your regular health routine. The best way to do that is to do regular and thorough skin checks.

How to do a skin check 

There are 8 steps to thoroughly checking your skin:
  1. Undress and stand in front of a full-length mirror. Look at your face, including your nose, lips, mouth and on and behind your ears
  2. Check your scalp, using a comb or blow dryer to part your hair in layers. If you do not have much hair, be sure to check your entire scalp very thoroughly. 
  3. Check the front and back of your arms, beginning at the armpits and moving down through the elbow to your wrists. Don’t forget to check both sides.
  4. Check your hands. Start with your palms and back of your hands. Look between the fingers and under the nails. 
  5. Focus on the neck, chest and body. Women, be sure to check between and underneath your breasts.
  6. Turn your back to the full-length mirror, and use a hand mirror to check your back, starting at the neck and shoulders and moving down to your lower back.
  7. Check your buttocks and the back of your legs, down to the heel. Turn around, facing the mirror once more, and check your genitals carefully. Check the front of your legs and the top of your feet.
  8. Finish by sitting on a chair to check the soles of your feet and in between your toes.

  9. What to look for

    Skin lesions are abnormalities that occur on or under the surface of the skin. They are normally associated with ageing, but can appear at any stage of your life. Skin lesions are common and usually harmless, but occasionally they can be warning signs of something more serious, including skin cancer.

    Broadly speaking, you should monitor your skin for spots that:
    • Change colour, size or shape
    • Appear different to the rest
    • Are asymmetrical or have uneven borders
    • Are wider than 6 mm
    • Feel rough or scaly (sometimes you can feel a lesion before it becomes visible)
    • Are multi-coloured
    • Are itchy
    • Are bleeding or oozing
    • Look pearly
    • Look like a wound but does not heal
    Don’t assume that a suspicious spot is harmless just because it is painless. Not all cancerous lesions are painful.

    The ABCDE rule

    An easy way to remember some of these signs is the ABCDE rule:
    • Is the lesion Asymmetric?
    • Does it have indistinct or uneven Borders? 
    • Does it change Colour?
    • Is it larger than 6mm in Diameter?
    • Has its size, shape or behaviour Evolved over time?

    The ‘Ugly Duckling’ sign

    All your moles should look fairly similar; the same shape and colours. If a new lesion appears that is different from the rest, it may be suspicious. This is called the ‘Ugly Duckling’ sign.
    A body map could be a useful tool when you are doing a skin check.

    Remember that a skin check is not a tool for self-diagnosis. It’s a tool to identify areas that may need a doctor’s professional eye. You should always discuss any concerns about changes to your skin with your doctor.