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How to Tell the Difference Between Skin Cancer and Moles

Sep 10, 2021

Statistics about skin cancer can be very frightening. It’s the most common kind of cancer, and 20 percent of Americans develop skin cancer by the time they’re 70 years old. If you’ve had five or more sunburns, your risk of melanoma is doubled. However, there’s one statistic it’s important to note: early detection leads to a 99 percent 5-year survival rate for melanoma. Here’s how to know the difference between skin cancer and normal moles.

Most moles aren’t problematic, but if you’ve got more than 50 moles, you are at a higher risk of developing melanoma. Additionally, the risk of cancer also increases if you have five atypical moles. So how do you know what’s typical and what isn’t?

  • Melanomas are irregularly shaped, while normal moles are round. The first sign of a melanoma is a normal mole that changes in size, shape, or color, becoming irregular and/or multicolored. Therefore, it’s important to regularly examine yourself to notice changes and detect melanomas early.
  • Certain kinds of moles are at a higher risk of developing melanoma. For example, moles known as “dysplastic” or “atypical” nevi larger than other moles have irregular borders and are a wide range of colors. These moles occur in about two to eight percent of the U.S. Caucasian population. People with dysplastic nevi and a family history of melanoma are at very high risk of developing melanoma at an early age.
  • Normal moles come in a variety of colors and shades. However, while melanomas are multicolored, normal moles are just one color. In addition, normal moles have regular borders, while melanomas have irregular borders.
  • No matter what, you should check your skin once a year. If you have 50 or more moles or five or more dysplastic moles, do it several times a year. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice a new, irregularly shaped, dark brown spot with darker areas, one of your moles has changed in color or texture, or you have a lesion with red, white, blue, gray, or bluish-black spots and an irregular border. Dark lesions under your nails, on the palms, soles, tips of fingers or toes, or on mucus membrane are also cause for concern.
  • Know the ABCDE rule. These characteristics can help you determine whether a mole could be a melanoma:
    • Asymmetry– the two sides of the mole don’t match each other.
    • Border– ragged, notched, or blurred edges.
    • Color– uneven, with shades of black, brown, tan, white, gray, red, or blue.
    • Diameter– usually larger than six millimeters.
    • Evolving– the mole is changing in size, shape, color, or appearance.

When you need expert advice and help caring for your skin, contact Arlington Dermatology. For over 40 years, our Board-Certified dermatologists have been serving patients, making the health and welfare of our patients our top priority. We offer innovative treatment methods using state-of-the-art medical equipment in our conveniently located, patient-friendly facility in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Contact us or call 847-392-5440.