When you want to catch skin cancer in its earliest stages, it pays to know how to examine moles on your body. If you've never performed a self-examination before, the most important thing is to know what you're looking for. Here are a few important things you'll want to look at when you inspect moles on your body.
Moles might look mostly the same at first, but there are a few different types of moles you need to know about before you begin your inspection. First, there are congenital moles. These moles are present on your body from birth and are largely benign. That said, there is a chance they could develop into skin cancer later in life. Next, there are acquired moles. These moles typically develop later in life during childhood and early adulthood. They're the most common type of mole you'll find on your skin and are harmless in the vast majority of cases. Finally, there are atypical moles. Atypical moles should be a warning sign during your self-examination for early signs of skin cancer. They can often develop into different types of skin cancer, and they run in families in some instances. More often than not, these are the moles your dermatologist will recommend removing. Now let's take a look at a few key features you need to look for when examining these types of moles.
Asymmetry is one of the earliest signs of skin cancer in a mole. A normal mole will be symmetrical all the way around. When there's a lack of symmetry or one half of your mole doesn't quite match the other, it's a good sign that you need to see your dermatologist for a more thorough examination or a skin cancer diagnosis.
If you see a mole with blurred, difficult to define, or jagged borders, you could be looking at irregular skin cell growth or an early sign of skin cancer. Most normal moles will have a clearly defined border and will be smooth on the skin—any signs of scalloping or blurring on the border of a mole warrant further examination by your dermatologist. Your dermatologist will likely order a biopsy in this situation.
When you look at the color of the moles on your skin, you should see mostly brown or tan. Sometimes there will be a black mole, but they're on the rare side. Normal moles will also have consistent coloring throughout each individual mole. Any abnormal coloration in your moles could be a sign of skin cancer. Some common colors to look out for include blue, red, and white.
Most moles are fairly small. While slight variations in size are normal, you shouldn't have any moles that are bigger than a pencil eraser. It's at that point your dermatologist will likely want to take a look. A mole outside of the normal scope of size could be an early indication of cancerous cell growth.
If you see any of these irregularities in your moles and want to schedule a skin cancer screening, contact our team at North Pacific Dermatology to set up an appointment today.