Why you should get tested for skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, however, 86% of skin cancers can be prevented and there is a 98% survival rate if skin cancer is caught early versus 16% if caught late.  In this blog, the third in our series for Sun Awareness Week, we explore why you should get tested for skin cancer.

Why should you get tested?  

Malignant Melanoma is the 5th most common cancer in the UK and there is currently no NHS screening for skin cancer. A melanoma can grow anywhere on the body, so it’s important to check your entire body regularly (once per month) for any changes or abnormalities. Being familiar with your skin, i.e. how it looks and feels, is important in identifying the symptoms of skin cancer early.

Checking your skin

A complete self-skin examination takes less than five minutes and we recommend you check your skin monthly. You should look out for the following changes to your skin:

  • Changes in the size, shape and colour of your moles, such as bleeding, oozing, inflammation and check all moles that are over 6mm

The equipment you will need for a self-skin examination:

  1. A full length mirror

  2. A hand mirror

  3. Good lighting

Step 1 - Use a hand mirror to examine your neck and scalp

  • Carefully look at your head and neck.

  • Check through your hair and move the mirror to behind your ears.

Step 2 – Look at your upper chest

  • Check your arms, then raise them one at a time, checking your underarms and forearms.

  • When looking at your hands, look at palms, fingernails and between your fingers.

  • Examine the rest of your chest. Women need to check underneath their breasts.

  • Check the rest of your abdomen.

Step 3 – Look at your legs, between toes and the soles of your feet

  • Sit down and look at the front of your thighs, your knees and your shins.

  • Use your hand mirror to look at the backs of your legs, thighs and calves.

  • Then look at the tops and soles of your feet, checking between the toes and your toenails.

  • Then inspect your genital area.

Step 4 – Back and shoulders

  • Continue your examination by standing up and looking at your back and shoulders in a full-length mirror with the aid of a hand mirror.

  • Finish the examination by looking at the back of your neck and through your scalp (a hairdryer can help you part your hair more easily).

Handy Hint

During your examination we recommend that:

  • MEN should pay particular attention to their trunk.

  • WOMEN should carefully check their legs.

These are the most common areas for men and women to develop melanomas, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, which is shown in the illustration below.

skin image for blog 3


If you are concerned about any moles or lesions after your self-examination consult your GP immediately.  Check4Cancer offers SkinCheck a private skin cancer screening service for anyone who wants a specialist review of the appearance of their skin or moles.  You can find out more about SkinCheck here.