Moles and Skin Cancer


Skin cancer is very common. And it’s also very treatable—if you catch it early. The sooner you detect melanoma and other types of skin cancer, the better your chances of beating it.

Skin cancer often shows up as a new spot or bump on the skin. It can also cause changes to a mole you’ve had for years. That’s why it’s important to become familiar with how your skin looks.

The easiest way to find skin cancer early is by checking your own skin, in the comfort of your own home. Scan your skin monthly for unusual new growths or changes to existing spots. You should also have an annual skin exam by a medical professional. Your doctor can check areas that are hard for you to see, like your scalp or back.

It’s normal to feel unsure about what to look for. Many of us already have dozens of moles, freckles or other marks on our body. The key is learning the difference between normal and abnormal spots—and asking your doctor to confirm your suspicions.

Characteristics of Normal Moles

Most of the spots and growths on our skin are moles. Normal moles share several features, including:

  • They’re one solid, uniform color. Most are tan, brown or black.
  • They’re fairly symmetrical, with an oval or round shape. They can be flat or raised.
  • They have a distinct border. The mole stands out from the surrounding skin.
  • They’re usually smaller than ¼-inch in diameter.

A new mole is not always a sign of cancer. What’s more important is how the new mole looks.

Characteristics of Abnormal Moles

Not all skin cancer looks the same. But certain features are a sign your mole or lesion may be cancerous. When performing skin checks, look for one or more of the following signs. Use the letters ABCDE as a guide:

  • Asymmetry: Look for moles with an unusual shape. One half may look different than the other.
  • Border: Watch for an irregular or jagged border. The edges could also look blurred.
  • Color: Look for multi-colored spots. One side of the mole may be darker than the other, or the mole may be flecked with white, blue or red.
  • Diameter: Watch for existing moles that grow, or a new mole larger than the width of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving: Pay attention to moles that look different from the rest, or change size, shape or color.

Skin cancer isn’t always obvious. But it can be serious. See your doctor right away if you notice anything unusual or unfamiliar on your skin.

Whether it’s been a while since your last skin exam, or you’re concerned about a strange new spot, turn to Mercy. We’ll provide the expert care you need to treat or prevent skin cancer—and promote lifelong skin health.

Does Melanoma Always Develop From Moles?

Dr. Jason Reinberg

Connect to Mercy Experts

View More View More