Skin cancer can
be cured if found and treated early.
- Your doctor may check your skin once a year during your annual exam. Or your doctor may suggest a skin exam more often, especially if you have:
- Familial atypical mole and melanoma (FAM-M) syndrome. This is an inherited tendency to develop
melanoma. Examine your skin every month and be
examined by a doctor every 4 to 6 months, preferably by the same doctor each
- Increased occupational or recreational exposure to
ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
- Abnormal moles called
atypical moles (dysplastic nevi). These moles are not
cancerous, but their presence is a warning of an inherited tendency to develop
- After reviewing evidence from studies,
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has not
recommended for or against routine skin cancer screening for adults at normal
Get to know your skin
Skin self-exam is a
good way to detect early skin changes that may mean melanoma. Look for any
abnormal skin growth or any change in the color, 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 exam may identify suspicious growths that may be cancer or
growths that may develop into skin cancer (precancers). Adults should examine
their skin once every month.
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 color, 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 exams. Most experts recommend having your skin examined at
least once a year.
- 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
ABCDEs, the changes in a mole or skin growth that are warning signs of
Asymmetry : One half doesn't match the
- Border irregularity : The edges are ragged, notched, or
- Color : The pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan,
brown, and black are present. Dashes of red, white, and blue add to the mottled
appearance. Color may spread from the edge of a mole into the surrounding
- 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 color.
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,
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2009). Screening for skin cancer: Recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine, 150(3): 178–185. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf09/skincancer/skincanrs.htm.