Spot it! Get to know your skin


By regularly checking for changes in freckles and moles you can spot any signs of skin cancer early. The sooner skin cancer is detected the greater your chances of successful treatment. Do a monthly skin self-exam.

A cancerous growth can develop rapidly and the earlier it’s diagnosed the better your chances of having it treated successfully. Dermatologists recommend doing a monthly head-to-toe skin self-examination to identify any new marks or changes to your skin - which should then be reported to your doctor.

What to look out for when examining your skin

CANSA suggest a monthly skin check, looking for:

  • a new mole (that’s different to your other moles)
  • a new, red or darker coloured, flaky patch of skin that may be a little raised
  • a change in the size, shape, colour, or feel of an existing mole or skin marking
  • a sore that doesn’t heal
  • a new flesh-coloured firm bump

Write down the dates of your skin self-exams and make notes each time about the way your skin looks. You may find it helpful to take photos to help check for changes over time.

Remember - there are several forms of skin cancer

Squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers are sometimes called non-melanoma skin cancers. These usually respond to treatment and rarely spread to other parts of your body. Melanoma is more aggressive than most other types of skin cancer. If it isn’t diagnosed early, it’s likely to invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of your body.

ABCDE: CANSA’s Melanoma warning signs

Asymmetry: If you draw an imaginary line through a mole and the two sides don’t match
Border: The border of an early melanoma tends to be uneven
Colour: Having a variety of colours in one spot is another warning sign. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. Melanomas can also change colour
Diameter: Melanomas are usually larger than 6mm in diameter, but can sometimes be smaller when first detected
Evolving: Any change in size, shape, colour, height or any other characteristic or any new symptoms such as bleeding, itching, or crusting is cause for concern.

Risk Factors for Melanoma

  • A family history of melanoma
  • A personal history of melanoma
  • Any atypical moles
  • A weakened immune system
  • Many ordinary moles (more than 50)
  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation
  • Severe, blistering sunburn
  • Skin with many freckles
  • Fair skin

If you are concerned about anything that you identify in your self-exam, CANSA advises that you speak to your GP or dermatologist immediately.

All medical information found on this website including content, graphics and images, is for educational and informational objectives only. Discovery Health publishes this content to help to empower cancer patients and their families by promoting a better understanding of a cancer diagnosis. The views expressed by all of the contributing healthcare providers are their independent, professional medical opinions, aimed at supporting patients. These views do not necessarily constitute the views of Discovery Health.

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