Skin cancer usually forms from a new or changing mole. Despite this fact, our moles are often something we pay no mind. But the key to catching skin cancer early, while it is still treatable, is paying attention to our moles and knowing when they might be cancerous. Below, we discuss the warning signs of cancerous moles so that you know when it may be time to visit a doctor.
When a mole is normal
Most adults will have between 10 to 40 moles on their body. Moles develop as a result of genetics and sun exposure, and it is common to grow new ones as you age. However, the new moles are the ones you want to watch out for as skin cancer usually begins as a new spot or growth. But before we go over the symptoms of a cancerous mole, what does a normal mole look like? A normal mole is usually smaller than a pencil eraser, has smooth and symmetrical borders, an even color and stays about the same over time.
Signs of a cancerous mole
Cancerous moles usually have some pretty distinct warning signs. While it isn’t uncommon for moles to flatten or darken with age, rapid changes are a sign that something isn’t right. Keep an eye on moles that appear during adulthood and see a doctor if they begin evolving or changing quickly.
So what are some of the changes that could be signs of cancer?
· A change in size, especially when the mole gets larger
· Edges of the mole become irregular and blotchy
· The color of the mole becomes uneven with many colors and dark spots
· The mole is no longer symmetrical
· The mole is itchy or painful
· The mole bleeds, scabs or becomes crusty
· The mole becomes inflamed
· The mole raises in the center or becomes thicker
See a doctor
Only a doctor will be able to diagnose cancer. That’s why it’s important that if you notice any changes or just don’t feel right about a mole to go get it checked out immediately. When skin cancer is caught in the early stages, it is almost always curable, but once it has spread to other areas of the body, it becomes much more difficult to treat.
Perform skin checks
Take inventory of your moles and understand your baseline. Once you know what’s normal for your skin and your body, it is easier to identify any potentially dangerous changes. To identify these changes, doctors and dermatologists recommend performing monthly head-to-toe skin self-examinations. Here is a guide of what to look out for.
The basics of a self-exam
The Skin Cancer Foundation provides a helpful order of operations for your skin checks, to ensure you don’t miss a thing:
Start with your face, examining your nose, lips, mouth and ears. Then move on to your scalp, pushing your hair aside and using a mirror to get a good look at the skin.
Next, check your hands, making sure to look between the fingers and even under the nails. After that, take inventory of your arms from your wrists to your forearms to your elbows, raising up your arms to look at your armpits and underneath your arms. From there, examine your torso, chest and neck. Women should look under their breasts as well.
Find a full-length mirror and use a hand mirror to look at your back, neck shoulders and upper back and arms. Continue down to examine your lower back, butt and the backs of both legs.
Finish by sitting down and using a hand mirror to examine your genitals. Also be sure to check all parts of your legs and examine your feet — the tops, soles, heels, in-between your toes and under your toenails.
Let SkinVision help
SkinVision can help with your monthly skin exams by checking any suspicious moles and revealing their potential risk of cancer. It will also track any changes in your moles over time, an important record for doctor visits. Download it for free.