Skin check: How do I know if this mole is cancer?

Skin check: How do I know if this mole is cancer?

Living in the Sunshine State raises many concerns regarding skin cancer and recognition of abnormal moles. As we age it is common to acquire many new spots that we do not recognize, but are they something to be concerned about? Self-examination practices are imperative in the early diagnosis of skin cancer, and these tips will help you to determine whether a trip to the dermatology office is warranted.

The three most commonly encountered malignant lesions of the skin include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Here’s how to recognize them:

  1. Basal cell carcinoma presents as a pink and pearly lesion, most commonly on the face, nose, and trunk of the body. They may be flat or raised, and tend to bleed easily. If you notice a lesion of this description on your body, be sure to consult your dermatologist to have it addressed. 
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma presents as lesions that are red, elevated, thickened, and appear to be crusted with a white scale. The urgency of removal for this type of cancer is greater than basal cell carcinoma, and an appointment should be made with your dermatologist as soon as you are able. 
  3. When it comes to moles, there are multiple factors to consider when deciding if it is something to be concerned about. Normal moles usually appear as a round or oval shape, are less than 6 mm in diameter, are colored evenly throughout, and are well-circumscribed. Malignant moles, on the other hand, are known to be the most common cause of skin cancer related death and need to be addressed in a timely fashion. Because of this, it is important to be aware of the signs that indicate that your mole could potentially be cancerous. We call these signs the ABCDE’s! If your mole exhibits any of these five characteristics, make an appointment with your dermatologist to have it evaluated. Here are what they stand for:

A: Asymmetry: Your mole appears as if you couldn’t fold it into two equal halves. 

B. Borders: The borders of the mole are irregular or the edges are not consistent.

C. Color: There is variation in the colors or if there are two or more colors noticed within the mole such as blue, black, brown, red.

D. Diameter: The mole is greater than 6mm in size.

E. Evolution: You notice any recent changes in appearance of the mole.  

When in doubt, make an appointment! And remember, prevention is key. Don’t forget your sunscreen and sun protective clothing!

This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.

There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset.

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