May is skin cancer awareness month. If you're looking for a way to celebrate, one of the first steps you can take is booking a skin cancer screening or mole evaluation. Here's what you need to know.
During a skin cancer screening or mole evaluation, your doctor will examine every mole or irregularity on your skin. This examination is much more thorough than what you might perform at home, and for good reason. Skin cancers like melanoma can hide in unlikely places. It's also difficult to tell an irregular mole from skin cancer if your eye is untrained. What is your doctor looking for when they examine your moles? Here are a few of the most common traits they'll examine.
When one half of a mole doesn't resemble the other half, it's considered an atypical mole. This phenomenon is called asymmetry. Asymmetry in a mole can be one of the early signs of skin cancer. Typically, moles will be symmetrical all the way around. When there's a lack of symmetry in any of your moles, your dermatologist may express concern and recommend further testing.
The border of a normal mole will be clear, smooth, and defined. Any blurred, jagged, or difficult to define borders on your moles is another key early sign of skin cancer. Anything other than a smooth, clear border will need to be examined further. A scalloped, jagged, or blurry border may indicate irregular cell growth. In this instance, your doctor will likely order a skin biopsy to further study the cell growth in that mole.
Believe it or not, the color of your moles can be cause for a skin cancer diagnosis. Ordinarily, moles will be tan, brown, or black in rarer cases. Not only that, but normal moles will have consistent coloring within that spot. Any irregularities in color either within a mole or across your body could be an indication that you have skin cancer—common warning colors to keep an eye out for include red, blue, and white.
A normal mole will usually be pretty small. While it's typical to have slight variations in mole size across your body, your moles overall should be smaller than a pencil eraser. When you're having a mole evaluation performed, your doctor will be looking for moles that fall outside of that normal range. If there's a mole larger than a pencil eraser, it's possible that your dermatologist will recommend having it removed as a precautionary measure.
Moles should not change over time. If there's a mole on your body that you notice has changed in size, shape, color, or texture, it's time to call your dermatologist. Mole evolution of this nature means there's a high possibility of irregular cell growth and possibly even skin cancer.
If you see any irregularities in your moles or you're overdue for a skin cancer screening, contact our team at North Pacific Dermatology to set up an appointment today. We're here to help!