Important Information on Moles & Melanomas

The ABCD's of Moles & Melanomas

It's important to check your skin for suspicious moles once a month and report anything unusual to your health care professional. When you inspect moles, pay special attention to their sizes, shapes, edges, and color. A handy way to remember these features is to think of the A, B, C, and D rules of skin cancer:

  • Asymmetry: Most moles are symmetrical and round. Be on the lookout for those that change shape and become asymmetrical.
  • Border: Most moles have even borders. Watch for moles that are uneven and irregular around the edges.
  • Color: It is normal for moles to be a uniform brown color. Moles that are different shades of brown or black may be a skin cancer and should be evaluated.
  • Diameter: Most moles are small -- about 6 mm or smaller in diameter. If a mole becomes larger than the tip of a pencil eraser, you should check with your dermatologist.

Self Examination of Moles & Melanomas

For many people, the experts recommend regular skin cancer screenings and self-examinations, which can detect skin cancer and precancerous growths early, when they are easiest to treat. The following are self-examination tips you can use to help identify potential skin cancers early.

  • After showering, check yourself in a well-lighted room using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror.
  • Start by checking moles and birthmarks you've had since birth. Look for changes, especially a new mole or skin discoloration, a sore that does not heal, or any change in the size, shape, texture, or color of an existing mole.
  • Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror. Then raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
  • Bend your elbows and look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms, and upper arms.
  • Examine the back, front and sides of your legs. Look between the buttocks and around the genital area.
  • Sit and closely examine your feet, including the toenails, soles, and spaces between the toes.
  • Look at your face, neck, ears, and scalp. Use a comb or hair dryer to move your hair so that you can see better. Or get someone else to check your scalp for you.
  • If you find anything suspicious, visit a dermatologist right away and ask for a full-body exam.

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