Large wall mirror, preferably full-length, in a well-lighted area
Facing the wall mirror, examine your face including lips, ears, and eyes. Use a flashlight to check inside your mouth, nostrils, and ears. Check your neck, shoulders, and upper chest. Women should also check under breasts.
Using both mirrors, check behind your ears, neck, and upper back. While parting your hair with the blow dryer or brush, use both mirrors to check your scalp—front, back, and sides. Or have a partner or family member help.
Check your abdomen, front and sides. Use the hand mirror to check your mid- to lower back carefully. (The back is the most common site of melanomas in males.) Use the hand mirror or both mirrors to check all areas of your buttocks and genitals, including hidden parts.
Raise both of your arms and check all sides of your arms and hands, including between fingers and under fingernails. Then check under your arms and the sides of your upper body.
Sitting on a small chair or stool, prop each leg in turn on the other chair or stool. Check all sides of your legs from ankles to thighs. Check your feet, including the tops, heels, soles, between toes, and under toenails. (Legs are the most common sites of melanomas in females.)
Anywhere, including places never exposed to the sun.
In Caucasian males, the most common location is the trunk (especially the back).
In Caucasian females, the most common locations are the legs (especially the back of
lower legs) and trunk.
Among Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans, the most common locations are
feet and hands.
ORIGIN OF MELANOMAS ON THE SKIN OF CAUCASIAN MALES & FEMALES
Common locations of melanomas in the Asian, Hispanic, and African-American population are on the soles of feet, palms, between toes and fingers,
and under toenails and fingernails (especially the large toenail and thumbnail). Above, a melanoma under a toenail, easily mistaken for a nail
fungus. (Dr. J. Ashworth)
What to Do If You Find a Suspicious Mole or Lesion
Get examined by a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon within a week. Primary care doctors are not skin specialists, so if you are required to see a primary care doctor, insist on a referral to a specialist.
If you are willing (or prefer) to have the suspicious lesion removed immediately, and it is not in a cosmetically sensitive area, forgo seeing a dermatologist or plastic surgeon and instead make an appointment directly with a general surgeon.
A suspicious lesion should be removed by surgical excision, not by shaving, burning, freezing, etc. Likewise, unless the lesion is very large, excisional biopsy is preferable to shaving or punch biopsy. Be certain to make this preference known to your health professional.
Some melanomas are difficult to distinguish from atypical moles. Insist on having the pathology examination of the lesion done by a dermatopathology lab (a pathology lab that specializes in skin diseases).