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Dermatology 101: 5 Signs That a Mole Might Be Cancerous

Signs That a Mole Might Be Cancerous New Braunfels, TX

Skin cancer is a serious concern, and early detection is crucial for effective treatment. Moles are common, but it’s essential to differentiate between benign moles and those that might be cancerous.

Here are five signs that a mole might be cancerous, which should prompt you to seek professional dermatological advice.

1. Asymmetry

Healthy moles are typically symmetrical, meaning if you draw a line through the middle, both halves would match. If a mole becomes asymmetrical, where one half looks different from the other, it could be a sign of melanoma.

Asymmetry is a key indicator that the cells in the mole are growing irregularly, which is characteristic of cancerous changes.

2. Irregular Borders

The borders of a benign mole are usually smooth and even. However, cancerous moles often have irregular, scalloped, or notched edges. These uneven borders are due to the uncontrolled growth of cells spreading unevenly, which disrupts the normally smooth appearance of the mole.

If you notice that the edges of your mole are becoming ragged or blurred, it’s important to have it checked by a dermatologist.

4. Multiple Colors

A single, uniform color is typical for benign moles. If a mole contains multiple shades of brown, black, tan, red, white, or blue, it could be a warning sign.

Cancerous moles can develop various colors as the melanoma cells produce different pigments. The presence of multiple colors within one mole is a significant red flag that requires medical evaluation.

5. Large Diameter

Moles that are larger than 6 millimeters in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser) should be examined, although some melanomas can be smaller when first detected.

The size alone isn’t definitive proof of cancer, but it is an important factor. Larger moles are more likely to be melanomas than smaller ones, especially if they exhibit other warning signs like asymmetry or multiple colors.

6. Evolving Over Time

Any change in a mole’s size, shape, color, or texture can be a critical indicator of melanoma. Benign moles usually remain consistent over time, while cancerous moles can change rapidly.

If you observe that a mole is growing, changing color, becoming raised, or developing new symptoms like itching or bleeding, it’s vital to consult a dermatologist immediately.

The Importance of Regular Skin Checks

Regular self-examinations and dermatological check-ups are essential for early detection of skin cancer. Skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early, but it can be deadly if left unchecked.

By performing routine self-checks and being aware of the ABCDEs (Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, Evolving), you can catch suspicious moles before they become a serious problem.

Moles are common, but being vigilant about changes can be life-saving. If you notice any signs of asymmetry, irregular borders, multiple colors, large diameter, or evolving characteristics in a mole, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice. Early detection is the best defense against skin cancer.

Sunscreen as Preventive Measures against Skin Cancer

Regular use of sunscreen helps reduce the risk of developing skin damage and cancers such as melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

When choosing a sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun, consider the following tips:

  • Broad-Spectrum Protection: Ensure the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • SPF 30 or Higher: Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 for adequate protection.
  • Water-Resistant: Opt for water-resistant formulas if you’ll be swimming or sweating.
  • Suitable for Skin Type: Select a sunscreen that suits your skin type, such as oil-free for oily skin or hypoallergenic for sensitive skin.
  • Ingredients: Look for sunscreens with ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for effective protection.

Always remember to apply generously and reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

The article* from the American Association for Cancer Research emphasizes that using sunscreen is a safe and effective method to prevent skin cancer. It underscores the importance of regular sunscreen application to reduce the risk of UV-induced skin damage, which can lead to cancer.

The study supports the use of sunscreen as part of a comprehensive sun protection strategy, highlighting its role in mitigating the harmful effects of sun exposure without significant adverse effects.

If you have concerns about a mole or need a professional skin examination, contact our dermatologist at (833) 353-2875 to schedule an appointment. Regular skin checks can make a significant difference in catching skin cancer early and ensuring effective treatment.

*Adèle C. Green, Gail M. Williams; Point: Sunscreen Use Is a Safe and Effective Approach to Skin Cancer Prevention. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1 October 2007; 16 (10): 1921–1922. https://doi.org/10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-0477