How do I know if a mole is cancerous? Paying extra attention to changes in your skin and knowing these are the telling signs could prevent the worst.
We may be good at following up with our doctor’s appointment and even remember to schedule our yearly check-up for a complete evaluation. However, our skin is one of the things that we tend to forget about until something extra obvious occurs. How do I know if a mole is cancerous? Or, is it normal that I suddenly have so many freckles? Are all legit questions to have when talking about the largest organ in our bodies.
Truth is that moles and freckles are extremely common, and particularly prevalent in fair-skinned people, but that does not mean that we should always dismiss changes in our skin as something common or simply natural.
In fact, many of us are not actually aware of the physical symptoms of melanoma, or have not read about potential signs of skin cancer that could help us identify if a particular mole or spot in our skin deserves extra attention.
Melanoma occurs when the cells that produce pigmentation in our skin become cancerous, and it can occur anywhere on the body. The most telling symptoms of melanoma include the appearance of a new and unusual growth in our skin, or a drastic change in an existing mole.
Physical symptoms of melanoma include:
- Changes in asymmetry, where one side or half of the mole does not resemble the other
- Border irregularities, meaning that the mole may have a poorly defined or scalloped border
- Color changes, whether gradual or sudden. Moles that contain multiple shades of black, brown, while, red and even blue deserve immediate attention
- Changes in diameter, especially when the mole is wider than a pencil eraser
- Bothersome moles are those that are significantly itchy, painful or bleed for no apparent reason
In addition to these physical symptoms of melanoma, other warning signs may include the sudden burst of moles or freckles/spots, especially when someone is over 20, and existing moles that all of a sudden change in size and appearance.
Furthermore, signs of skin cancer may also include:
- A sore that does not seam to heal despite getting treatment
- Redness or sudden swelling around an existing mole
- Spread of mole pigmentation into the surrounding skin
- Appearance of a lump or bump around and/or under the mole
- Congenital moles are those that are present at birth, and while they pose an increased risk of developing skin cancer, they only appear in about 1 percent of people.
- Acquired moles are those that develop during childhood or early adulthood, and they tend to be smaller than a quarter of an inch and most-likely will not cause any significant health crisis.
- Atypical moles are larger than a pencil eraser, with an irregular shape and often with uneven color. These tend to run in families and also have an increased risk of developing into skin cancer.
If you see changes in an existing mole, or you are worried about the sudden appearance of one, it is important to schedule an evaluation to dismiss any potential problems.
Most moles are harmless and do not require surgical removal. However, if – for cosmetic of evaluative reasons – the mole is removed, it will be sent to a lab for further evaluation. Identifying skin cancer at its earliest stages is highly important as it is when melanoma it’s most treatable.