Most of us who spent a childhood in the sun will be aware that those benign moles we have on our skin may, one day, transform into cancerous melanomas. But what should we be on the lookout for and how can we tell when a mole is actually dangerous? In other words, what does a melanoma look like and how can we work out when a visit to the doctor is needed?
What is melanoma?
A melanoma is a type of cancer that most often starts on the skin inside the melanocytes.
These are the cells that make up the pigment of our skin and what determine if we are dark skinned or light. Most of us have moles on our skin – which are permanent damage to the pigment cells – however, these are not melanomas until they begin to take on the characteristics of cancer (ie rapidly changing cells).
This may never happen – but it pays to keep an eye on all moles just in case.
What will it look like?
There are a number of signs (A, B, C, D, E) that we are warned to look out for when checking our moles. The ABDCE method include the following:
- Asymmetry: Any mole where one side is not the same as the other. In other words it is not round.
- Borders: Any edge that is irregular is worth getting checked. If they are blurred, notched or ragged it could be a bad sign.
- Colour: Moles should be even in colour and just one colour across the entire mole. If you have a mix of colours or any areas that are grey, pink or blue, it makes sense to have them checked.
- Diameter: Normal moles are rarely any more than 5mm in size – anything larger should be checked. However, some may be very small.
- Evolving: Any mole that has changed in size, colour or if it has started to itch over the last few weeks should be checked.
Don’t forget that you don’t need all of these signs – just one will do.
Ways to identify a melanoma
Our melanoma detection app is probably one of the best ways to get an objective view point on your mole (without visiting your doctor). It will take into account all of the signs that we identified above and then advise you on the best thing to do.
Remember that not all strange looking moles are cancerous and even if they are there is a good chance they will be caught early on, if you keep an eye on them. So don’t hesitate to have them checked if you are at all worried.