But you can't benefit from self-exams if you don't know what to look for. Here are some tips to help avoid common mistakes.
DO: Check your skin regularly.
By examining your skin monthly, you will become familiar with what is normal for you. It may be helpful to record the dates of your self-exams and to make notations about your skin, such as the appearance and location of moles. If your doctor has taken photos of your skin, use these pictures when looking for changes.
DO: Use a mirror.
Check your skin in a well-lighted room using both a full-length and a hand-held mirror. It's best to begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles and blemishes are and what they usually look and feel like. Check for anything new, especially a change in the size, shape, texture, or color of a mole (see The ABCD's of Moles) or a sore that does not heal. Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror; then raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
DON'T: Forget to look between your toes.
It's easy to forget about places that you don't see, like in between your toes. But you need to look carefully over your entire body. Check your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides) and upper arms. Examine the back, front and sides of your legs. Also look between your buttocks and around your genital area. Sit and closely examine your feet, including your soles, toenails and the spaces between your toes.