Skin health and protection

How to check your own skin

Even if no abnormalities are detected at your skin cancer check-up, a new skin cancer could start to develop at any time.

You need to know:

  • how to check your skin
  • what signs to look for

Examine your own skin regularly for signs of new or changing spots.

Video guide to checking your own skin

Written instructions, together with a description of what to look for (and pictures of skin cancers): cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/check-for-signs-of-skin-cancer.html  

What to look for

“Ugly ducklings”

Be suspicious of any new or changing spots that look different from spots elsewhere on your body. Spots that break the pattern of the other spots are known as “ugly ducklings”. Identifying them is one of the quickest and easiest ways of locating skin cancers for non-medical people.

Examples of ugly duckling spots
Examples of "ugly duckling" spots

The ugly duckling rule for detecting suspicious spots helps non-trained people find skin cancers with higher accuracy than the better-known ABCDEFG rule. (Ilyas 2017)

The ABCDEFG rule

The ABCDEF rule can also help you decide if a spot is normal or suspicious.

If you use the MoleScope app (see below) to take and record photos of your spots, it can help you check for the ABCD signs.

Asymmetry:

The two sides of the spot don’t match.

Border:

The edge/border of the spot is irregular. It might be clear in one area and indistinct in another.

Colour:

The spot has many different colours (not just shades of one colour)

Diameter:

Most melanomas have a diameter greater than 5mm. In general, if the diameter (size from one side to the other) is increasing, it's a suspicious sign.

EFG = elevated, firm, growing:

Any raised lump that has a firm consistency and is growing is suspicious.

Monitoring with photography

You can monitor your own moles by taking a series of photographs over time. This can be a useful way of detecting changes in size or shape — sometimes an early sign of skin cancer.

Spot Check Clinic patients have access to the online MoleScope/DermEngine system which records the location and appearance of atypical spots detected during examination. You can log in to MoleScope to view these photos and assess changes. If you wish, you can take your own photos and add them to your MoleScope records.

You will need:

  • The MoleScope app for smart phone or iPod. It connects to your record in MoleScope, so you can see photos taken at Spot Check Clinic and add your own.
  • A lens attachment for your phone allowing you to take close-up photos. You can purchase the dysplens or Molescope Lite attachment from Spot Check Clinic. Alternatively, these lenses are both available online
  • If you wish to ask a doctor’s opinion about a spot you’ve photographed, you can upload it using the MoleScope app and a Spot Check doctor will give you an opinion within 2 working days. (Note: A fee applies for this service.)

More information...

Today's UV index

More information

References

Ilyas M, Costello C, Shang N et al
2017
The role of the ugly duckling sign in patient education
J Am Acad Dermatol, Dec;77(6):1088-1095.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2017.06.152
Date accessed:
30 Jul
 
2021