If you have a mole, you may have heard that you should keep an eye on it or even get it checked regularly. Although skin cancer can be scary, a dermatologist can help you keep your skin clear and healthy. Here’s what to know about concerning moles and when to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist.
Characteristics of abnormal moles
There are a few characteristics of moles that can be cause for concern. These are known as the ABCDEs of skin cancer. They include:
- Asymmetry: Moles are generally round and symmetrical. If the mole is asymmetrical, it could be a sign of melanoma. When you examine a mole, draw an imaginary line through its center. If it doesn’t match up on either side, consider getting it checked.
- Border: Most benign moles have smooth, even borders. If the edges of the mole are blurred, scalloped, or notched, consider scheduling a skin cancer screening.
- Color: Most non-cancerous moles are one color – usually some shade of brown. You should see a doctor if the mole is patchy or has different shades of one color. Moles that turn red, white, or blue need to be checked out right away.
- Diameter: Cancerous moles are usually larger in size than regular moles. Cancerous moles can start out small and grow. But, you may naturally have moles that are larger, simply based on genetics – this doesn’t mean they are necessarily cancerous. If you have large moles, you should consider having them regularly checked just in case.
- Evolving: If your moles change over time, it’s a big indicator of skin cancer. Most benign moles stay the same shape, size, and color throughout your lifetime, so be on alert if any mole starts changing with the above characteristics. If they become painful, itchy, or bleed, see a doctor right away.
How are cancerous moles removed?
Dermatologists use different diagnosis methods depending on the location, size, and type of cancer. Your dermatologist may use:
- Liquid Nitrogen Deconstruction
- Mohs Surgery
Firstly, you’ll undergo a biopsy to determine whether your mole is cancerous. Then, your dermatologist can discuss your best options and how best to proceed based on what stage the cancer is in. If the cancer has already spread, you’ll be referred to an oncology team.
How often should you have moles checked?
Dermatologists recommend you check your moles at home once every three months. Look for larger, discolored, or asymmetrical moles after you get out of the shower. Rough edges may also be signs to watch for. Make sure to check everywhere on your body, including your genitals, between your toes, under your fingernails, and on your back. If you have a mole in a place where you can’t see it, like on your back or scalp, have a spouse, partner, or other trusted person check it out for you.
Dermatologists also recommend that you have a professional skin check once per year. This is an appointment where a dermatologist will closely examine any moles on your body, including difficult-to-see places. They’ll likely use specialized tools to get a clear view of the mole and look for any signs of skin cancer. Additionally, you can have your regular physician take a look at any spots on your skin and your yearly check-up if you’re concerned about it.
Schedule an Appointment
If you have any concerns about your moles, it’s always best to play it safe and meet with a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very easily treatable when caught in the early stages, so don’t hesitate to have your skin checked. To meet with our team and learn more about moles and what to look for, contact Seattle Skin & Laser at our Seattle-area locations by calling or filling out our online form.