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How To Spot Skin Cancer Moles

Is My Mole Cancerous

Mole Check: How to spot skin cancer

One of the easiest ways to spot skin cancers such as melanoma is with changing moles. Moles may be present on the body and are common. However, changing in moles or the development of new ones may be of great concern. The doctors at Harris Dermatology encourage patients who notice changes to their moles to request a biopsy with their dermatologist. A biopsy is done to take a sample of the tissue and have it evaluated at a laboratory for skin cancer cells. Changes to the mole that patients should take note of include changes to color, shape, size, and border. Patients should also tell their doctor if they are experiencing itching, tenderness, pain, or bleeding from a mole.

What Causes Skin Cancer

So, what causes skin cancer? Many people spend their time outdoors during warm summer months, enjoying activities such as tanning. But trying to get the perfect tan through constant sun exposure is not always a healthy choice. Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, as well as tanning beds, are both contributing factors to developing skin cancer. This ultraviolet radiation causes damage to skin cells, triggering the cells to multiply and mutate. When you visit with Dr. Bartos, it is important to talk about your history with sun exposure so we can make an accurate assessment.

The Warning Signs Of Skin Cancer

Skin cancers — including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma — often start as changes to your skin. They can be new growths or precancerous lesions — changes that are not cancer but could become cancer over time. An estimated 40% to 50% of fair-skinned people who live to be 65 will develop at least one skin cancer. Learn to spot the early warning signs. Skin cancer can be cured if it’s found and treated early.

Read Also: How Many Forms Of Skin Cancer Are There

Biological Therapies And Melanoma

Biological therapies are treatments using substances made naturally by the body. Some of these treatments are called immunotherapy because they help the immune system fight the cancer, or they occur naturally as part of the immune system. There are many biological therapies being researched and trialled, which in the future may help treat people with melanoma. They include monoclonal antibodies and vaccine therapy.

What Are The Differences Between A Common Mole A Dysplastic Nevus And A Melanoma

How to tell if YOU have skin cancer from irregular moles ...

Common moles, dysplastic nevi, and melanoma vary by size, color, shape, and surface texture. The list below summarizes some differences between moles and cancer. Another important difference is that a common mole or dysplastic nevus will not return after it is removed by a full excisional biopsy from the skin, but melanoma sometimes grows back. Also, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body.

Common Mole

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How To Check Your Skin

  • Make sure you check your entire body, as skin cancers can sometimes occur on parts of the body that are not exposed to the sun, such as the soles of the feet, between fingers and toes and under nails.
  • Undress completely and make sure you have good light.
  • Use a mirror to check hard to see spots, like your back and scalp, or get a family member, partner or friend to check for you.

How Are Moles Evaluated

If you find a mole or spot that has any ABCDE’s of melanoma — or one that’s tender, itching, oozing, scaly, doesn’t heal or has redness or swelling beyond the mole — see a doctor. Your doctor may want to remove a tissue sample from the mole and biopsy it. If found to be cancerous, the entire mole and a rim of normal skin around it will be removed and the wound stitched closed. Additional treatment may be needed.

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How To Detect Skin Cancer

There are many early warning signs for patients who are developing skin cancer, and if patients pay close attention to changes to their skin, they may spot cancer in the earliest of stages. This is why it is important for patients to monitor changes in moles on the body, as this can be an easy indicator of a serious problem. Additionally, patients should book annual skin cancer screenings with a dermatology to get a head-to-toe evaluation. Patients should look for new or changing skin growth, wounds that dont heal after scabbing, and the development of any skin tags that may indicate a problem.

What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer

How to Tell if Your Mole is Cancerous – North Idaho Dermatology

Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, or a change in a mole.external icon Not all skin cancers look the same.

For melanoma specifically, a simple way to remember the warning signs is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma

  • A stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
  • B stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
  • C is for color. Is the color uneven?
  • D is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
  • E is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

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Can A Doctor Diagnose Melanoma Just By Looking At It

Some cancerous moles and melanoma spots look pretty textbook, and a doctor may strongly suspect that its melanoma. But the only way to be 100% certain is by taking a biopsy, Dr. Gastman explains.

A biopsy removes a sample of the mole for testing. It can confirm the presence of cancer and reveal how deep the melanoma extends below the surface of the skin. The deeper it is, the more likely cancer has spread to other parts of your body and the harder it is to treat. Knowing how deep it goes helps us determine the treatment plan, Dr. Gastman says.

Spotting The Signs Of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The second most common form of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma tends to occur more in light-skinned people, though dark-skinned people are also susceptible. Watch out for these signs:5 6 7

  • Thick, rough, scaly patches of skin
  • Red patches, growths, or lumps
  • Wart-like appearance
  • Open sores with a crusted surface and a raised border
  • Hard horny cap on the bump
  • Scaly appearance
  • Very tender to the touch and bleeding easily if you scratch or bump them

Also Check: What Is Single Cell Carcinoma

Warning Signs That May Indicate Melanoma

Use the ABCDE guide to determine whether a mole or a mark on your skin may indicate melanoma or other skin cancer:

A is for the asymmetrical shape. Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the center of the lesion, one half differs from the other half, so it appears different from a round to oval and symmetrical mole.

B is for the border. Skin cancer like melanoma tends to be uneven and may have notched border or scalloped edges.

C is for color or shading. Multiple colors are warning signs. Check for growths that have changed shading, have numerous colors, or have irregular shading.

D is for diameter. It is a warning sign if a new growth in a mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser or about 6 mm, or ¼ inch in diameter. Some experts state that it is also essential to check for any lesion, regardless of what size, that is darker than others. Rare cases, some people have amelanotic melanomas and these melanomas are colorless.

E is for evolving. Look for moles that change in shape, size, color or height, mainly if part or the entirety of a mole turns dark. Also, check for moles that have other warning signs of skin cancer like melanoma such as bleeding, itching or crusting.

Cancerous moles vary greatly in appearance. Some may show all of the features indicated above. Others may have only one or two. If you notice these warning signs on your mole or skin, you need to see a dermatologist promptly.

Three Most Common Skin Cancers

De 25+ bedste idéer inden for Cancerous moles på Pinterest ...

The term skin cancer refers to three different conditions:

  • basal cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • malignant melanoma

BCC and SCC are referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers and are the most common forms of skin cancer. They are rarely life-threatening, but can be locally destructive to tissue. Melanoma is generally the most serious form of cancer because it can metastasize throughout our body quickly.

If you notice any of the following, see your skin expert at Trillium Creek Dermatology.

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Southern Cross Medical Library

The purpose of the Southern Cross Medical Library is to provide information of a general nature to help you better understand certain medical conditions. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. This information is not intended to relate specifically to insurance or healthcare services provided by Southern Cross. For more articles go to the Medical Library index page.

Spotting The Signs Of Basal Cell Carcinomas

Basal cell carcinomas, a nonmelanoma skin cancer, are cancerous growths in the basal cells, the deepest layer of the outer skin. They tend to develop in parts of your body that are exposed to sunlight. Heres how you can tell if you have one. Most basal carcinomas take one of these forms:4

  • Flat yellow patch of skin: A patch of skin thats paler than the surrounding area, often yellow and not unlike a scar.
  • Raised reddish patch: This may also have some associated itchiness.
  • Open sores: These sores refuse to heal or seem to heal before coming right back again.
  • Pink growths: These are lower in the middle and have edges that are raised. You may also notice the blood vessels in this area spread out like spokes from the center.
  • Pearly bumps: These could be red or pink and sometimes have little portions that are black, blue, or brown. The skin here is shiny and translucent like a pearl.

Watch Out For Fragile Skin

This form of skin cancer leaves the skin in that area quite fragile. So if you find yourself developing a bleed after a minor injury like a nick from shaving, you need to be watchful. Keep an eye out to see that it heals properly and doesnt develop any of the other signs. Any cuts should heal in about a week especially minor ones from shaving. If youre concerned, go straight to your doctor to have it checked out.

Also Check: How To Treat Melanoma On Face

Other Signs Of Skin Cancer

While moles can become cancerous, they arent the only way melanoma can creep in. Melanoma can also develop in places where there isnt a preexisting mole, Dr. Gastman says.

Melanoma can resemble a sore or a spot, a birthmark, a pimple or even a bruise. Melanoma can also show up as a dark line under a fingernail or toenail.

If you notice possible warning signs of melanoma whether in a mole or anywhere else get it checked out by a doctor. The earlier you catch melanoma, the easier it is to treat.

How To Perform A Skin Self

How To Spot Skin Cancer Early. What To Look For

Examine your body in a full-length mirror

Examine your body front and back in the mirror, then look at the right and left sides with your arms raised.

Look at your underarms, forearms, and palms

Bend elbows and look carefully at forearms, underarms, and palms.

Look at your legs, between toes, and soles of your feet

Look at the backs of your legs and feet, the spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet.

Use a hand mirror to examine your neck and scalp

Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair for a closer look.

Use a hand mirror to check your back and buttocks

Finally, check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror.

Related AAD resources

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Beware Of Pain Or Itching

Often, skin cancer doesnt cause any truly bothersome symptoms until the cancer has grown fairly large. That noted, about 28% of skin cancer lesionsusually non-melanoma skin cancers, like basal cell and squamous cell carcinomado involve pain and 37% are accompanied by itching, according to a study in JAMA Dermatology. However, acral lentiginous melanoma, the most common subtype of melanoma in non-Hispanic Blacks, can be associated with pain, itching, ulceration, and bleeding, says Dr. Harvey. Painful, itchy or tender spots that dont feel better in a weeks time should be looked at by a dermatologist, advises the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Causes And Risk Factors

Researchers do not know why certain cells become cancerous. However, they have identified some risk factors for skin cancer.

The most important risk factor for melanoma is exposure to UV rays. These damage the skin cellsâ DNA, which controls how the cells grow, divide, and stay alive.

Most UV rays come from sunlight, but they also come from tanning beds.

Some other risk factors for skin cancer include:

  • A lot of moles: A person with more than 100 moles is more likely to develop melanoma.
  • Fair skin, light hair, and freckles: The risk of developing melanoma is higher among people with fair skin. Those who burn easily have an increased risk.
  • Family history:Around 10% of people with the condition have a family history of it.
  • Personal history: Melanoma is likelier to form in a person who has already had it. People who have had basal cell or squamous cell cancers also have an increased risk of developing melanoma.

The best way to reduce the risk of skin cancer is to limit oneâs exposure to UV rays. A person can do this by using sunscreen, seeking shade, and covering up when outdoors.

People should also avoid tanning beds and sunlamps to reduce their risk of skin cancer.

It can be easy to mistake benign growths for skin cancer.

The following skin conditions have similar symptoms to skin cancer:

Read Also: What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma Skin Cancer

What Does Melanoma Look Like

Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole. Melanoma may also appear as a new colored area on the skin.

The “ABCDE” rule describes the features of early melanoma :

  • Asymmetry. The shape of one half does not match the other half.
  • Border that is irregular. The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
  • Color that is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
  • Diameter. There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than 6 millimeters wide .
  • Evolving. The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.

Melanomas can vary greatly in how they look. Many show all of the ABCDE features. However, some may show only one or two of the ABCDE features . Several photos of melanomas are shown here. More photos are on the What Does Melanoma Look Like? page.

Melanoma Photos

In advanced melanoma, the texture of the mole may change. The skin on the surface may break down and look scraped. It may become hard or lumpy. The surface may ooze or bleed. Sometimes the melanoma is itchy, tender, or painful.

Protect Yourself From Melanoma

Melanoma Pictures


Reducing your exposure to the suns UV rays is the only action you can take to lower your risk of skin cancer.

If you spend time in the sun, even in the winter, use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher that is labeled broad-spectrum this means that it protects against both UVA and UVB light. Use sunscreen even on cloudy daysabout 80 percent of the suns rays can filter through clouds.

Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Cover any exposed skin, including your ears, lips, back of your neck, and your scalp if your hair is thinning. For added protection, stay out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.


Follow the ABCDE rule as a guide when examining moles and other spots on your skin. Look for:

  • Asymmetry, in which one half of the mole is shaped differently than the other half.
  • Borders that are irregular, ragged, or blurred.
  • Color that varies from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, black, white, pink, red, or blue.
  • Diameter larger than 6 millimeters .
  • Evolving, such as growing larger and/or changing color or shape.


Also Check: What Is Multiple Melanoma Cancer

Should I See My Doctor

Go and see your GP if:

  • you have any of the ABCDE signs
  • a mole is itching or painful
  • a mole is bleeding or becoming crusty
  • a mole looks inflamed
  • you have an unusual mark or lump on your skin that lasts for a few weeks
  • you have a dark area or line under a nail that is not due to an injury

The earlier a melanoma is picked up, the easier it is to treat and the more likely treatment is to be successful. So go to your GP as soon as possible.


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