Moles are common among adults, and having a mole is not necessarily cause for alarm. However, sometimes moles can turn into cancerous melanoma, so it is important to understand how to identify cancerous moles.
Luckily, the ABCDEs of melanoma offer an easy way to remember and identify moles that may be cancerous. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, but when detected early it can be effectively treated.
Memorize these rules to know the warning signs of cancerous moles:
A is for Asymmetry
Normal moles are round, oval, or otherwise symmetrical. If you find an asymmetrical spot on your skin, it may be cause for concern.
B is for Border
Moles that have an irregular or poorly defined border are worth having a dermatologist examine to determine if they may be cancerous.
C is for Color
Most normal skin spots and moles are one solid color. If you discover a multi-colored mole or spot, have a doctor check it out.
D is for Diameter
Moles that are larger than 1/4 inch in diameter (or larger than a standard pencil eraser) could be potentially cancerous.
E is for Evolving
Any time you notice a mole or spot on your skin changing in size, shape, color, or thickness, make an appointment with a dermatologist.
F is for Funny looking
If your mole seems funny looking or abnormal in any way, pay a visit to your dermatologist.
How to perform a skin cancer self-examination:
Once you know the ABCDE and F’s of melanoma, it is important to check your skin regularly for any changes. Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color, and skin cancer can appear anywhere on your body.
You'll want to enlist a close friend, family member, or spouse to help you check those hard to see places on your skin. Start by examining the front and back of your body while standing in front of a mirror.
Next, raise your arms and check your right and left sides. Use a hand mirror or have your helper examine the back of your neck and your head. Be sure to part your hair to thoroughly check your scalp.
Check your elbows, forearms, the back of your upper arms, and the palms of your hands. Examine the backs of your legs and your feet, including the spaces between your toes and the soles of your feet. Finally, don't forget to check your back and buttocks.
If you discover any unusual spots or moles, or experience a mole changing, itching, or bleeding, call a board-certified dermatologist right away to make an appointment. The earlier skin cancer is detected, the better chance there is for effective treatment.
What can I do to reduce my risk of getting melanoma?
Avoid tanning, including using indoor tanning beds or tanning lamps. Tanning occurs when your skin absorbs harmful UV radiation. While tanning is dangerous at any age, the risks increase for younger users. Studies have shown that using an indoor tanning bed even once before age 35 can increase your risk of melanoma by 59%, and the risk increases with each use.
Anyone can get melanoma, but the risks are especially high for people who sunburn easily. Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and wear a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays daily.