Did you find a mole that looks a little suspicious? Are you questioning if it is skin cancer or a mole? For starters, let us just say kudos on paying attention! It is so vital to watch yourself for these things because early detection truly saves lives.
For reference, skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells. It most often develops on areas of the skin exposed to the sun’s rays or UV exposure through tanning beds. Skin cancer does not discriminate by age, gender or ethnicity. Research has estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society, about 3.3 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed in America each year with an estimated 100,000 new cases of melanoma predicted for 2020.
Skin cancer can be found anywhere on your body, but is most commonly located on the head, neck, arms and legs. Don’t just think of the obvious places that YOU can see though, think about the places you might not see very well on your own, like your ear or the back of your knee. Skin cancer can grow as a new spot that appears to be a mole or freckle or can grow within an existing mole. That’s why it is vital to perform a monthly self-skin check to watch for any new or changing moles. If you even have an inkling of a spot not looking quite right, call your local board-certified dermatologist for an appointment as soon as possible. Skin cancer screenings take around 10 minutes and can be lifesaving.
What to look for in a normal vs abnormal mole
When dermatologists educate patients on examining their own skin, they commonly refer them to the ABCDE’s.
Melanoma lesions are often irregular, or not symmetrical, in shape. A non-cancerous mole is typically symmetrical in shape. If you were to draw a line through the middle of a mole, the two halves should roughly match.
Typically a non-cancerous mole will have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions usually have irregular boarders that are difficult to define.
A non-cancerous mole is commonly a single shade of brown or tan. If there is a presence of more than one color, or uneven distribution of color this can be a warning sign of melanoma. Melanoma can occur in a variety of colors including brown, black, red, blue, or purple. These spots can be flat or raised and can bleed easily. Non-melanoma skin cancer, also known as basal and squamous cell carcinoma, typically appear as small, pearly, or pale bumps or as dark red patches that can be raised, flat or scaly in texture.
Non-cancerous moles are typically smaller than malignant ones. If its diameter is greater than a pencil eraser, it may be a sign that it is growing or changing. Larger moles that have been stable for an extended period of time are not typically cause for concern; though continued observation is recommended.
The evolution of a mole is the most important factor to consider when performing a self-skin check. This is why monthly checks are so important. If you know what is normal, you will easily be able to tell if it has grown, or evolved, overtime.
Remember, early detection saves lives and a simple, yearly in-office skin screening with your local board-certified Forefront Dermatologist can truly mean the difference between life and death. Contact us today to schedule your annual skin screening.