When to Get a Mole Checked
Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, but it is also the most preventable. It also happens to be much more visible than other cancers, since the first signs of trouble often sprout in the form of a new, unusual mole on the surface of the skin. Here we will teach you about when to get a mole checked and if it is suspicious looking.
The problem is spotting suspicious moles can be easier said than done, especially if you are not quite sure what you are looking for. Since everybody is different, and the naked eye is not a foolproof diagnostic tool, skin cancer could sneak up under your radar. While this sort of cancer has a high survival rate if caught early, your prognosis is much worse once the cancer has had time to spread.
Fortunately, there are reliable methods to spot a problematic mole early on, and you will want to start using them right away. The better you can recognize a suspicious mole, the sooner you can get the medical attention you need to deal with the problem before it becomes something serious.
Signs of a Problem
Your eyes are your best allies in early skin cancer detection. Get into the habit of looking closely at your skin from head to toe, using a mirror to help you see every inch of your skin. Although moles are stationary, your skin is one big organ; even regions that never see the sunlight could be affected by dangerous changes to the tissue, considering it is all connected.
Here are a few things to look out for while you inspect your moles.
1. Irregular Shape and Pattern
When it comes to moles, regular patterns are good, while outliers are bad. If most of your moles fall into the same size and color category, any mole that stands out from the crowd in any respect should be examined more closely. These are known as dysplastic moles, and they can indicate that the cells are behaving differently than the healthy cells in your other moles.
2. New Growths in Adulthood
Moles tend to pop up throughout childhood, and in many cases these are just benign skin changes. However, your risk of skin cancer rises with your exposure to the sun, and that means adults are more vulnerable than children. In fact, melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer) is the most common form of cancer in young adults between the ages of 25 to 29.
3. Abnormal Size
When cancer spreads, groups of cell grow. So, if cancer manifests in a mole, that mole can grow much bigger than your average mole (cancer cells also multiply more rapidly than other cells). Take a look at your body and make a note of any moles that are noticeably bigger than the others. If they also look different in other ways, see your doctor right away.
4. Change in Sensation
Moles are typically neutral; they don’t hurt, they don’t tingle — they are just there. When a mole begins to itch, ache or bleed, that is a sign that something’s wrong. Even if you have had the mole for quite a while, you will need to get it checked out.
5. Change in Appearance
Although moles can change a bit shortly after they form, a noticeable change in color, size, shape or height is something to be concerned about. A change in texture is another concern: rough, flaky or scaly moles can spell trouble, too.
Dermatologists have developed a handy device to single out suspicious spots, known as the ABCDEs of moles. Get in the habit of using this every time you check out your skin:
- Asymmetry: when one half looks different than the other half, get it checked.
- Border: ragged, blurred or smudged borders are bad signs.
- Color: if there is more than one color in the mole, there could be a problem.
- Diameter: moles that are larger than the diameter of a pencil are suspicious.
- Evolving: a mole that changes over time is a big red flag.
Although each of these elements are important to consider, the last one is probably the most important. Skin cancer often spreads rapidly, and as those cancer cells multiply, they can change the look of the mole. Never ignore a changing mole.
Additional Elements That Can Raise Your Risk
Each mole has qualities and clues to acknowledge, but there are also other factors that might make you more vulnerable to skin cancer than the average person.
Although nobody is immune to the sun’s dangerous effects, you might be more prone to skin cancers than the average person if a close family member has been diagnosed with melanoma. If a sibling or parent has had a cancerous mole, you should be checking your body at least once a month for suspicious signs.
Previous Skin or Mole Problems
If you have already had a cancerous mole removed, you are more likely to develop another one in the future. Melanoma survivors are nine times as likely to contract melanoma again as the rest of the population.
The Location of the Mole
A cancerous mole could show up anywhere on your body, even in places that aren’t typically exposed, but melanomas tend to follow a specific pattern. For men the most common site is on the back, and for women it is the lower leg.
If you are worried about a mole, there is no reason to wait and see what happens. Make an appointment with your family doctor right away; if they also have suspicions, they will refer you to a dermatologist. Remember, skin cancer that is caught early can often be quickly and completely eradicated.