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Skin Self-Examination (SSE)

Skin self-examination, or SSE, is a personal screening process that can alert you to changes in your skin. Initially, it’s a good idea to have your provider perform a full-body exam to assure that any existing spots, freckles, or moles are normal. This exam can serve as a baseline for future self-exams.

Conducting a careful, deliberate, and purposeful visual examination of your skin can help with early detection of skin cancer. It’s a good idea to perform your SSE once a month, but ask your provider if you need more frequent checks.

Ideally, the room where you conduct the exam should have a full-length mirror and bright lights so you can look at your entire body. When performing the SSE, look for:

  • New skin markings, such as moles, blemishes, colorations, or bumps
  • Moles that have changed in size, texture, color, or shape
  • Moles or lesions that continue to bleed or won't heal
  • Moles with uneven edges, differences in color, or lack of symmetry
  • Any mole or growth that appears markedly different from other skin growths

Examine your skin in the following way:

  • Look closely at your entire body, both front and back, in the mirror.
  • Check under your arms and both sides of each arm.
  • Examine your forearms after bending your arms at the elbows, and then look at the palms of your hands and underneath your upper arms.
  • Look at the front and back of both legs.
  • Look at your buttocks and between your buttocks.
  • Examine your genital area.
  • Look at your face, neck, back of neck, and scalp. It’s best to use both a hand mirror and full-length mirror, along with a comb, to see areas of your scalp.
  • Look at your feet, including the soles, toenails, and the spaces between your toes.
  • Have a person you trust help by examining hard-to-see areas.

Do not ignore a suspicious spot, mole, or freckle simply because it doesn’t hurt. If you notice anything suspicious, see your provider right away. Prevention and early detection of skin cancer are extremely important.