Check your skin

It is important you check yourself regularly for any moles or skin patches that have appeared or changed over time.

Download our skin cancer flyer Tirohia tō kiri / Check your skin

Do the check

Look over your entire body regularly. Skin cancers can be in places you can’t see yourself, so you may need to ask someone to help you check.

Remember to check in places that are hard to see or might not normally get exposed to the sun, such as:

  • your armpits
  • behind your ears
  • your scalp
  • the bottom of your feet
  • your fingernails and toenails.

If you don’t have someone who can check these awkward places for you, try using a hand mirror.

It’s a good idea to keep track of how spots and moles look so you know if they have changed since you last checked your skin.

If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor and show them what is worrying you. 

Check your skin often enough so it becomes a regular habit.

Check your skin often enough so it becomes a regular habit. Talk to your doctor about how often they recommend you check your skin. 

See your doctor

See your doctor as soon as possible if you:

  • see or feel something that's new on your skin 
  • see or feel something that’s different from other spots or moles
  • notice a spot or mole that’s changed from the last time you checked - this could include a change in the colour, shape or size, or if it is bleeding, oozing, scaly, swelling or itchy
  • a sore that does not heal.

Some skin cancers can spread very quickly, so noticing a change in your skin quickly (early detection) means that it''s more likely to be treated successfully.

Smartphone apps

You can also use a smartphone app to capture photographs to monitor your moles and other skin lesions - but if you find an unusual or changing lesion, arrange to see your doctor for professional advice. Don't rely on an automated diagnosis tool as they are not yet very reliable. 

Melanoma Risk Calculator

If you are European and 20 years or older, you and your doctor can use the Melanoma Institute of Australia Risk Predictor Tool (New Zealanders should select Tasmania as their home state). Based on your estimated risk, you both can agree how often you should have a full body skin check. 

Melanoma NZ has developed a video that shows you how to check your skin.


This content has been reviewed by Dr Amanda Oakley CNZM MBChB PGDipHealInf FRACP FNZDS IFAAD on 14/11/2021.