Some people have just a few moles, while others of us have an entire body covered in them. For such individuals, it may be more difficult to detect a new mole. Why would it be important to identify a new mole on your body? Only 25% of melanomas are from existing moles, which means that the majority of melanomas are new moles. It is equally important to be aware of changing moles, as this is a primary indicator of skin cancer.
A melanoma is a cancerous tumor that looks like a mole. Although it only makes up a small percentage of skin cancer cases, it is the leading cause of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma’s danger is due to the fact that its cells can spread easily throughout your body, including lymph nodes and vital organs. Your first step to detecting melanoma before it is too late is to discover it on your skin by checking your moles.
How Do I Check My Moles?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the ABCDE method for monitoring your moles:
- Asymmetric shape – non-cancerous moles are symmetrical
- Border irregularity – melanomas have notches or blurred edges while moles are more sharply defined
- Color variability – the color is distributed unevenly in cancerous moles
- Diameter – moles are typically smaller than ¼ inch
- Evolution – changes in size, shape, and color can indicate a melanoma
- Extra features – if a new mole is bleeding or itching, it could be cancerous
If you notice any of these features, consult your dermatologist for a full skin check. Olansky Dermatology Associates performs full body skin checks to identify suspicious moles or other areas of concern on your skin. We may choose to remove the mole and check it for malignancy.
Is Your Risk High?
Even low risk patients should engage in routine mole checks. However, there are certain groups of people that are at higher risk for melanoma. Those with larger moles have a greater risk for developing skin cancer as well as those with a history of frequent sunburns. If you have fair skin, blonde or red hair, and a family history of melanoma, you will need to be extra diligent in examining your moles.
How long has it been since you had your moles and freckles checked? Making that appointment sooner rather than later could potentially save your life.