How To Identify If A Mole Is Cancerous Or Benign?

By | August 29, 2017

Most moles are harmless but each mole has the potential to turn into melanoma, a very deadly form of skin cancer, if not discovered at early stages. A report by Skin Cancer Foundation points out that it is the fifth and seventh most common cancer in males & females respectively. The only way we can prevent skin cancer is by finding it during early stages. Therefore, it is absolutely recommended to perform self-skin examination once every month and carefully evaluate your body for new skin lesions or changes in existing lesions.

How to perform a skin check at home?

Make sure the room has good light with a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to make the task easier for you. The check-up is done from head to toe so that no area of your body is left unchecked.

1. Check your face carefully. Make sure you pay attention to your nose, eyes, ears, lips. Point out anything that looks alien. You may use the hand mirror as well to ensure clarity.
2. Since scalp is difficult to check all by yourself, so we recommend that you call your friend or family member to do that for you. Explain to them what you are looking for and ensure that no spot is left unchecked on your head. Use a dryer to separate hair and take a closer look at the scalp.
3. Check your chest, hands, fingers, nails, wrist, elbows, upper arms, underarms etc.
4. Check your genitals, legs, thighs, feet, ankles etc.
5. Make sure not a single area of your body is left unchecked. You may take photos if you wish and compare every month. The checks must be performed once every month.

What should you look for while performing a skin exam?

American Institute of Dermatology has identified some common characteristics of cancerous moles and recommends every person to look for these signs to know if a mole is cancerous or benign. This is also known as the ABCDE rule.

A (Asymmetry) – The mole is not in symmetry. One-half doesn’t match the other half. It is quite possible that both halves may be different in color, shape, size & structure.

B (Border) – The borders of a cancerous mole are irregular, not defined and edges are blurred & uneven.

C (Color) – While benign moles mostly follow a fixed color pattern, melanomas have different color shades including pink, blue, red, brown, pink etc.

D (Diameter) – Malignant moles are said to have a diameter of more than ¼ inches (6 mm), which is the size of a pencil eraser.

E (Evolve) – If you observe any of your moles change its shape, size or color, meet a board-certified doctor immediately to evaluate it’s cancerous properties.

If you witness any of these characteristics in your moles, make an appointment with a doctor immediately.

Other things that you should look in a mole for while performing skin check –

1. Swelling or redness
2. Itching
3. Pain
4. Bleeding
5. Scaling or oozing

If you look for any of these signs, meet your dermatologist immediately and seek help on the future course of action.

 Quick facts about cancerous moles –

1. Moles that appear after 30-35 years, they are most likely to convert to melanoma. Let the medical practitioner evaluate it. Take note that most red moles or cherry angiomas appear after 30 years and they are mostly benign.
2. Any person with more than 100 moles is at a higher risk of skin cancer.
3. Family members with a history of melanomas are at a higher risk.
4. Anyone with more than 10 Atypical moles.
5. Fair-skinned people are more prone to skin diseases.
6. As exposure to sun remains one of the strongest reasons causes for the growth of moles and if you are someone with overexposure to UV light, you are at an increased risk of skin cancer.

What Next?

If your mole is found to be cancerous, the doctor will recommend a surgical excision.

If a mole is found non-cancerous and you still want them removed for cosmetic reasons, you can go for other non-invasive medical procedures such as laser removal, Cryosurgery or radiosurgery for good cosmetic results with minimal scarring.

You can also check with your about using home remedies for mole removal. they are widely popular. Although, there’s no medical evidence concerning their effectiveness.

You may also follow these steps to prevent the growth of new moles in the future.


With inputs from Mayo Clinic, Skin Cancer Foundation & Cleveland Clinic  

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