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How to tell when a mole is cancerous

Most moles are harmless, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on them. If the appearance of a mole changes or if you develop any other suspicious-looking growths on the skin, your doctor can perform a thorough skin exam to check for melanoma. In the event that you are diagnosed with skin cancer, Good Samaritan Hospital’s Comprehensive Cancer Program offers superior, patient-focused care.

Know how to spot skin abnormalities

There’s an easy way to know if a mole is abnormal or not. Compare it to the ABCDEs of skin cancer.

Asymmetry: If you compare the two halves of a potentially cancerous mole, they might not match.

Border: The borders of a harmless mole are even and smooth. Melanomas often have uneven borders that might look notched or scalloped.

Color: Harmless moles are typically a uniform color. Moles that have multiple colors or shades should be examined by a doctor.

Diameter: Potentially cancerous moles might be small initially, but they may later grow larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser.

Evolving: Harmless moles stay the same over time. If a mole begins to evolve in appearance, it’s time to see a doctor.

Perform a skin self-exam

Doctors generally recommend performing a skin self-exam once per month and having a skin cancer screening during your annual exam. After bathing, stand in front of a large wall mirror and have a handheld mirror handy. Keep the ABCDEs of skin cancer in mind while you examine the following areas:

  • Fronts and backs of the legs and arms

  • Tops and undersides of the hands and feet

  • Between your toes and fingers

  • Face, shoulders, neck and scalp

  • Behind the ears

  • Front and sides of your torso

  • Back and buttocks

You may need to have a partner or family member help you check areas that are hard to see. Make a note of any moles you see and keep track of their appearance over time.

Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose provides unique cancer care services, including our Survivorship Program. Our highly trained physicians and nurses choose to work at our hospital because of our unparalleled reputation for putting our patients first. Call us today at (888) 724-2362 and let us know how we can help you live life well.

Categories: Skin, Cancer, Mole

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