Skin moles are harmless growths that everyone has. How many you have is determined by how much sun you were exposed to when you were a child and also by heredity. Moles don’t all look alike, some are flat and some are not. Most moles will never turn cancerous. When they do become cancerous they are called melanomas.
How can you tell if what you have is just a mole or it is a melanoma? The best way is to know your skin. Self examination once a month will not only make you familiar with your skin but will help you to notice any changes as early as possible. What you are looking for is any new growth or any changes to moles that you already have. Skin cancers can be very slow growing, some types can take as long as 20 years to develop, others are very fast growing.
You need to have a full length mirror, two is even better. First check everything that you can see without the mirror, arms, legs, chest, feet and hands. Don’t forget to look between your toes and at the soles of your feet. Now use the mirror to check under your arms, your back and under your breasts (if you are a woman). You also need a small mirror to check your genitalia. A blow-dryer will help you to check your scalp. This may be awkward the first time but once you get used to making the monthly exams you will be able to do it in just five to 10 minutes. This exam can save your life.
Melanomas usually look different from regular moles. According to the American Melanoma Foundation, you need to check the mole for the ABCDs, asymmetry, border irregularity, color change and a diameter bigger that 5mm.
Asymmetry: the moles that most people have are round, if you divide it in half the halves are equal. If you notice a mole that doesn’t fit this pattern you need to have it looked at by a doctor.
Border: If a mole has borders that look rough or uneven this is also a warning sign.
Color change: If a mole has several colors of brown or black or shows blue, white or red color, this is a warning sign that something isn’t right.
Diameter: If a mole is larger than a pencil eraser it should be looked at. Melanomas tend to grow larger than a simple harmless mole.
There is also an E that needs to be considered. You also want to be aware of changes to moles that you already have, this is evolving.
If a mole continues to grow, if the skin around the mole seems swollen or red, if the mole becomes crusty or begins to ooze or bleed this is not good. If a flat mole suddenly becomes raised or if the mole becomes itchy or painful these are all symptoms that need to be addressed ASAP. Anything that may indicate a melanoma needs to be seen by a doctor. Melanoma can quickly metastasize and once it does, it will spread to the internal organs. When this happens, the chance of a cure are dramatically decreased. The thicker a melanoma gets the more likely it is that it has spread.
You are the best weapon you have against skin cancer. Stay away from the sun without sun-block and check your skin as often as possible. It is quick and simple and can save your life.