How To Perform a Skin Check - Skin Cancer 3

Performing a Skin Check and The Importance of Protecting Your Skin

Thank you to Northern Nevada Health System for sponsoring this post on the importance of a skin check by Dr. Amber Hayes. Read our disclosure.

As we head into the hottest time of year, do not forget to lather on that sunscreen and protect the largest organ on your body – your skin!

The American Cancer Society states that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States despite most cases being preventable.

A regular skin check and prevention measures – for men and women – will ensure you and your family stays healthy. Nevertheless, where do you start?

How To Protect Your Skin and Reduce Skin Cancer Risks

The Nevada Cancer Coalition advises patients to follow the five S’s to reduce their risk of skin cancer.

  1. Slip on sun-protective clothing
  2. Slop on broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen
  3. Slap on a wide-brimmed hat
  4. Seek shade or shelter, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  5. Slide on UV protective sunglasses

Taking it a step further, you do not need to see a provider to check your skin but an annual skin screening by a dermatologist is recommended if you have a history of melanoma or other risk factors.

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How To Perform a Skin Check

When you are ready to perform a skin check, we recommend the following steps after a bath or shower. If you check your skin regularly, you will identify abnormalities quicker. Set a reminder by scheduling it on your phone each month so you never miss this quick check.

Here are some steps from the American Cancer Society to help you perform a skin check on yourself.

  1. Face the Mirror: Check your full face, neck, chest and stomach. Women will need to lift their breasts to check the skin underneath. Additionally, do not forget about your arms, hands including palms and fingers.
  2. Sit Down: Check your full legs, inner and outer, plus your feet and in between toes.
  3. Hand Mirror: Use a hand mirror to check your buttocks, genital area, lower and upper back, neck and ears.
  4. Scalp Check: Use a comb to part your hair and check your scalp in various areas.

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What do I look for when checking my skin?

As you perform a skin check, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Skin cancer comes in many shapes and sizes so you want to look for the following abnormalities when checking your body. Remember, skin cancer can be found anywhere on the body. Be sure to check your entire body regularly.

Ask your partner for help if you cannot see or reach areas of your body.

  • A new, growing or changing, spot, growth, or bump on the skin
  • A non-healing sore
  • A wart-like growth
  • A rough or scaly red patch (including blistering and bleeding)
  • A mole that is new, has changed sizes, shape, or color

Getting a Skin Check or Exam With Your Provider

If you identify an abnormal growth, spot, or mole on your body, inform your provider right away.

Your provider may order tests to determine if the abnormality is of concern. Depending on your family and personal history, you may also be referred to a dermatologist.

The dermatologist is an expert in skin diseases and can answer specialized questions, perform a skin biopsy and further diagnose skin disorders.

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Risk Factors for Melanoma

It is important to know if you are at risk of developing melanoma. However, some patients who are diagnosed with melanoma, have little to no risk factors.

  • Exposure to UV rays such as natural sun, tanning beds, and sun lamps.
  • Moles usually appear in children and young adults. While most do not cause any problems, moles are a risk factor for developing melanoma.
  • Having fair skin, freckling, and light or red hair can put you at increased risk for developing melanoma.
  • Family or personal history is a factor if one or more of your first-degree relatives has had melanoma.
  • Other factors include having a weakened immune system, being older or having a rare inherited condition called xeroderma pigmentosum.

Importance of a Regular Skin Check or Self-Exam

More than anything, we encourage you to perform regular skin checks, see your primary care doctor annually and make any changes to your skin seriously.

Although adults are more at risk for developing skin conditions, checking your children and ensuring they are sun safe is important.

When’s the last time you had a skin check?

Article by: Amber Hayes, MD (Family Medicine) – Northern Nevada Medical Group



Northern Nevada Health System is a regional network of care that has elevated and improved access to healthcare for 40 years. The System operates two acute care hospitals located in Sparks and Reno, 24/7 freestanding emergency departments, a Medical Group which offers family and internal medicine, urgent care and specialty care, and Quail Surgical and Pain Management. NNHS is committed to maintaining and improving the well-being of the community and is known for top-rated patient satisfaction, in addition to providing quality care and a safe environment for patients to heal. To learn more, visit