Skin cancer screenings are an important part of skin cancer prevention, but it's also your job to perform self-exams at home. When you do, you need to know how to tell whether a spot could potentially be cancerous. Here's what you need to look for.
It's easy to think that all moles are the same, but the truth is that there are a few different types of moles to look out for in your self-examination. Specifically, any changes in these moles. First are congenital moles. These moles, which people are born with, are often mistaken for birthmarks because of their coloration, size, and shape. In most cases, these moles are benign. They should be monitored closely for any changes, though. Common moles are also benign and most often develop on the skin after birth. Most people have anywhere from 10 to 40 of these types of moles on their skin. And lastly, there are atypical moles. Atypical moles develop cancer more frequently than the other two types of moles. If you're concerned about an atypical mole, the following features can help you determine whether a spot is cancerous or not. (You can remember these by using the acronym “ABCDE.”)
Asymmetry is one of the early signs of skin cancer in a mole. A normal mole will be symmetrical all around. A mole that is asymmetrical may be an odd shape or have a jagged edge on one side. If you notice that a mole on your body is not symmetrical or has recently changed in shape, it's probably a good idea to see your dermatologist for a formal skin cancer screening.
Blurred, jagged, or difficult to define borders on a mole can also be an indicator that there is cancer present. A normal mole will have a smooth, clearly defined border. If you notice that any of your moles have a border that fades into the rest of your skin or any other border irregularities, make sure you see your dermatologist. A formal skin cancer screening and a mole biopsy will be able to help determine whether the spot is cancerous or not.
The vast majority of moles will be tan, brown, or sometimes black. Black is a more uncommon color for a mole, so it's in your best interest to keep a close eye on black moles on your body. In addition, be on the lookout for moles that consist of more than one color throughout. This could be a sign of melanoma. Other common mole colors to keep a sharp eye out for include red, blue, and white. Any spots of these colors should be closely examined by your dermatologist.
Moles are typically pretty small. It's normal to have some variation in size for moles throughout your body, but any major size differences should be noted with care. In most cases, any mole greater than 6mm in diameter should be examined by your dermatologist.
Evolving moles are a key early sign of different types of skin cancer. Any changes in shape, size, color, or texture should be noted immediately and looked at by your dermatologist. Most moles, once they develop on the skin, remain static throughout your life. Sudden changes must be looked at immediately for early signs of skin cancer.
If you have questions about abnormalities on your skin and think you might need a mole evaluation or skin cancer screening, contact our team at North Pacific Dermatology to set up an appointment today.