Identifying Skin Cancer from Moles

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in America with over one million diagnoses per year. Skin cancer is a general term for three types of cancer of the skin: Melanoma, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. While Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common forms of skin cancer, they are also the least fatal and are thus known as non-melanoma skin cancer. Melanomas account for the majority of skin-cancer fatalities, and are one of the most common cancers in both women and men. As the risks of skin cancer become known, awareness and self-diagnosis become more and more important for Americans. And as skin cancer can appear in all shapes, sizes and colors, understanding how to self-diagnose and recognize skin cancer from regular moles is something people should know.

Doctors and medical professionals have developed “the ABCD’s” of Melanoma, a brief symptom guide of how to identify a Melanoma from a mole. While these characteristics cover pretty much every base, individuals should always consult a medical professional.

A – Asymmetry
The asymmetry of the mole is very easy to recognize; just draw an imaginary line through the mole and see if the two halves match. Melanomas are usually unequal in size, discolored, or have varying degrees of thickness, while moles are normally symmetric, all one color, and one thickness. Any asymmetry in the mole is a possible sign that it could be a Melanoma.

B – Border
Recognizing the border of the mole can sometimes be difficult due to the size of the mole. If the border of the mole is ragged, scalloped, blurred or unclear, it could be a sign of a Melanoma. Normal moles have borders that are well defined and consistent.

C – Color
?Probably one of the easiest aspects of the mole to recognize is the color. Suspicious moles will not have the same color throughout, or will have shades of brown, black, red, white or even blue. The color in a normal mole will be consistent throughout, even moles with multiple colors (the colors should be seen throughout the mole).

D – Diameter
Also easy to diagnose is the size of the mole. Melanomas tend to be larger than six millimeters in diameter, while moles are quite smaller. Additionally, if the mole increases in size to larger than six millimeters it may be a sign to get it checked out.

As self-diagnosis of a mole can be difficult to do, especially if its located in an area that is hard to see. Therefore, people should ask a spouse, family member or friend to help diagnose. Individuals can also have someone else take a picture of the mole so they can look at it closely. In any case, suspicious moles that do not meet even one of the four criteria should be looked at by a doctor or dermatologist. Sometimes benign moles and lesions can have Melanoma-like characteristics, but again, these should be diagnosed by a doctor or dermatologist. As skin cancer is so prevalent, its important for everyone to watch their body and seek medical advice at the first signs of a Melanoma, basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


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