We recommend that you do a head-to-toe self-examination of your skin every month.  This way you can find any new or changing lesions that might be cancerous or precancerous. 

Performed regularly, self-examination can alert you to changes in your skin and aid in the early detection of skin cancer. It should be done often enough to become a habit, but not so often as to feel like a bother. For most people, once a month is ideal, but ask your doctor if you should do more frequent checks.

You may find it helpful to have a doctor do a full-body exam first, to assure you that any existing spots, freckles, or moles are normal or treat any that may not be.

After the first few times, self-examination should take no more than 10 minutes — a small investment in what could be a life-saving procedure.

There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Because each has many different appearances, it is important to know the early warning signs. Look especially for a change of any kind.

Do not ignore a suspicious spot simply because it does not hurt. Skin cancers may be painless, but dangerous all the same. If you notice one or more of the warning signs, see a doctor right away, preferably one who specializes in diseases of the skin.

  • A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
  • A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that:
    • changes color
    • increases in size or thickness
    • changes in texture
    • is irregular in outline
    • is bigger than 6mm or 1/4", the size of a pencil eraser
    • appears after age 21
  • A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode or bleed
  • An open sore that does not heal within three weeks

Don't overlook it. Don't delay. See a physician, preferably one who specializes in diseases of the skin, if you note any change in an existing mole, freckle, or spot or if you find a new one with any of the warning signs of skin cancer

About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Since its inception in 1979, The Skin Cancer Foundation has always recommended using a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher as one important part of a complete sun protection regimen. Sunscreen alone is not enough, however.

Read our full list of skin cancer prevention tips:

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM. Do not burn.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
    For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.  Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
  • See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.