How Can I Tell if This Mole Is Suspicious?

How Can I Tell if This Mole Is Suspicious?

You've probably heard it before: keeping an eye on your skin — especially your moles — is one of the best ways to detect skin cancer early. Skin cancer is most treatable when identified early, but how exactly do you distinguish between a harmless and potentially dangerous mole?

Moles are clusters of pigmented cells on the surface of your skin. They usually appear as small, round, dark spots, and most people have at least one mole somewhere on their bodies. They're almost always non-cancerous, but knowing how to tell if a mole is suspicious is important.

Walter D. Gracia, MD, PA, is a Fort Worth, Texas plastic surgeon. He specializes in diagnosing and removing skin lesions, including certain types of cancer.

When it comes to identifying suspicious moles, we recommend the ABCDE method. This tool helps you assess your moles with confidence so you can determine when to seek professional evaluation. Here's how it works.

A: Asymmetry

Healthy moles tend to be symmetrical, meaning if you were to draw an imaginary line down the middle, both halves would match. Suspicious moles, on the other hand, are often asymmetrical.

Take a moment to look at your mole's shape. Does one half look noticeably different from the other? If so, it's a potential red flag.

B: Border

The border of a benign mole is typically smooth and well-defined. However, malignant moles may have irregular, blurred, or jagged borders.

Run your finger gently around the perimeter of your mole. Does it feel like a distinct edge, or does it seem to fade into the surrounding skin? Any border irregularities warrant further attention.

C: Color

Healthy moles are usually a uniform color, whether brown, tan, black, or pink. Be wary of moles with multiple shades or colors, especially if they include red, white, or blue hues.

Examine your mole closely. Does it have consistent coloring, or do you notice any variations or patches of different shades? An inconsistent color pattern could indicate a problematic mole.

D: Diameter

While mole size isn't always indicative of cancer, it is essential. Most benign moles are smaller in diameter, typically no larger than a pencil eraser (about 6 millimeters). However, melanomas can sometimes be larger. 

Measure the diameter of your mole. Is it larger than the average benign mole? If it exceeds 6 millimeters or is noticeably growing, it's worth checking out.

E: Evolution

The most critical aspect of mole assessment is monitoring changes over time. Any size, shape, color, or texture alterations should raise your suspicions.

Pay attention to your mole's evolution. Has it grown larger, become raised, or developed new characteristics? Even subtle changes warrant prompt evaluation by a medical professional.

When to get a professional skin exam

Self-examination is an important step in protecting your skin health, and following the ABCDE method can help you recognize suspicious moles. Schedule a professional exam as soon as possible if you notice anything concerning during your self-exams.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends monthly self-exams and annual professional skin exams. Regular check-ups can catch suspicious lesions that may not be immediately apparent to the untrained eye.

Remember, skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color or sun exposure history. UV radiation from the sun is a significant risk factor, but genetic predisposition and other factors can also contribute to skin cancer development.

Knowing how to assess your moles using the ABCDE method is valuable, and Dr. Gracia is here to help you find answers and maintain your skin health. Schedule an appointment online or call our office at 817-336-9450 to get started.

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