Detecting skin cancer early: how to perform a skin cancer check

Nishan Fernando

July 9, 2022

Throughout the year it is possible for your skin to be damaged by the sun’s UV rays.  However, during the summertime that risk is increased, as we spend more time outside and the sun’s rays are more intense, meaning that the risk of developing skin cancer is increased.

Skin cancer is one of the most common form of cancer in the UK, with an average of 16,744 people being newly diagnosed each year.  When caught early and treated, skin cancer is one of the most treatable versions of cancer, with 87% of people surviving for a further 10yrs.  (  That’s why regular skin cancer checks are so important and a simple but life-saving way to pick up any changes in your skin, which could be the early development of skin cancer. We recommend you check your skin head-to-toe once a month, all year round.

In this month’s blog we explain how to complete a skin cancer check, what you should look for and what to do if you find something of concern.

How should I do a skin check?

Start by getting into a comfortable space then work through the following steps:

1) Prepare.  Ask someone to help you so you can make sure areas which are hard to see yourself are checked. If you can’t find anyone, position yourself in front of a full-length mirror, get a hand mirror and remove clothing so you can inspect all of your skin.

2) Examine your body. Look carefully over the front and back of your body in the mirror then raise your arms and look at your right and left sides.

3) Underarms, forearm and palms.  Bend your elbows and have a close look over all these body parts.

4) Legs, between toes and soles of feet
.  Sit on a chair and look at each leg and foot carefully, checking the sole and between each toe.

5) Face, neck and scalp. Examine your neck and scalp using a hand mirror. Use a comb or hair dryer to part and help sift through your hair. 

6) Back and Buttocks.  Use a hand mirror to carefully assess your back and buttocks.   

What should I be looking for?

Anything that is NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL on your skin can be a concern, but in particular look out for:

  • A growth that increases in size and appears pearly, transparent, tan, brown, black or multicoloured.
  • A mole, birthmark or brown spot that increases in size, thickness, changes in colour or texture or is bigger than a pencil rubber.
  • A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed.
  • An open sore that does not heal within three weeks.

What if I find something of concern?

If you find something that concerns you, we recommend you talk to a doctor as soon as possible. When a patient visits us for concerns over skin changes, our GPs either reassure or, where we have any concern, we can refer you for a more detailed review of your skin called a Dermoscopy. A Dermoscopy is a service offered by dermatologists and some private GPs, it  is a non-invasive way of examining and diagnosing skin lesions and diseases.

If you are concerned about changes to your skin, get in touch and one of our team will book an appointment for you.