Checking Your Skin

Together with sun protection, early detection is your best defence against skin cancer. We all need to get into the habit of checking our skin regularly, preferably with each new season (i.e, at least every three months).

It's particularly important if you are over 50, have a family history of skin cancer or been badly sunburnt over the years.

Spotting skin cancer early gives you a better chance of treating it successfully.

Ask your friend, relative or use a mirror to look at parts you cannot see. If you can't check your skin ask your GP or practice nurse.

Check:

  • your whole body from head to toe, front, back and sides
  • your head and neck—don't forget your scalp, ears, face and lips
  • your trunk, front back and sides
  • your arms and hands, including nails
  • the soles of your feet, between your toes and nails
  • your buttocks and legs.

Use SCAN as a guide to help you check your skin and recognise the early signs of skin cancer:

Scaly, itchy, bleeding, non-healing sores
Changing Spots (size, shape or colour)
Abnormal spots (different to others) or,
New spots (up to 70 % of melanomas are new)

The more SCAN features a spot or mole has the more concerning it may be. (e.g. a New mole that is Changing in appearance and that is Abnormal is one that should be checked by a doctor urgently.)

Most people have made all their moles by the time they are 40. A new mole after this age is more suspicious, and the older you are the more suspicious a new mole is.

If you do find a spot or mole of concern, see your doctor for either a "spot check", or a full skin check.

It's your doctor's job to diagnose skin cancer, but you will know better than anyone else if something on your skin is new or changing – two important early warning signs.