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Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Is That Spot Cancerous? How to Tell

Determining if a Spot Is Cancerous

When you’re performing a self-exam to look for early signs of skin cancer it pays to know what they look like. Here are a few ways to tell whether a spot you’re concerned about could be cancerous.

Understand Your Moles

One of the first places you need to look for abnormalities is your moles. While skin cancer can take many shapes and forms, it often manifests in moles or mole-like growths on your skin. That being said, not every mole or freckle is one you need to be concerned about. Congenital moles may need more attention paid to them because they are, by nature, irregular. Though most are benign, your dermatologist will likely ask you to pay close attention and monitor any changes. Other moles on your body are usually just that: moles. But on the off chance that they could be cancerous, spotting the early warning signs is crucial. Any kind of irregularity or new feature in your moles should be closely examined.


Normal moles will be symmetrical all around. Any moles that have an irregular shape or aren’t symmetrical all the way around should be examined closely. An irregular shape could be indicative of cancerous growth and needs to be examined more closely by your dermatologist. In addition, moles that change in shape over time should be cause for worry.


A mole’s border is also an important place to look for signs of skin cancer. A normal mole will have a smooth, clearly defined border all the way around. Moles with jagged, blurred, or hard-to-define borders could be an early warning sign of skin cancer development. If you notice a mole that has a border either fading into the rest of your skin or that looks like a jagged line, it’s a good idea to contact your dermatologist and schedule a formal skin cancer screening.


Most moles on your body will be the same color or in the same color family. In the majority of cases, moles will be some shade of brown or tan. Benign moles can be black, but that color is still a bit unusual. Black moles should be monitored closely. Other irregular colors to watch out for include blue, red, and white. If you notice spots on your skin that are any of these colors, it’s a good idea to contact your dermatologist. A mole biopsy will be able to help determine whether they’re cancerous.


In general, moles are pretty small. Any mole larger than about 6mm, or the size of a pencil eraser, is cause for worry. This is especially true if the mole in question recently grew to that size or larger. Congenital moles may be larger than this already, but the majority of these moles are benign. Any other mole that’s larger than 6mm across should be looked at by a dermatologist.


Moles should not change over the course of your life. If they do, it’s important to monitor them closely and contact your dermatologist to set up a skin cancer screening. Different types of skin cancer may result in different evolutions, but in general, any change in a mole’s size, shape, color, or texture should be noted immediately.

A self-examination can help you find early signs of skin cancer if you understand what you should be looking for. If you have questions about abnormalities on your skin or want to set up a skin cancer screening, contact SE Dermatology Specialists today.

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