Patients in the McKinney area ask how to spot a cancerous mole

Although melanoma only accounts for a small fraction of skin cancer cases, it can still be quite deadly. Melanoma can look just like a mole on the outside, but on the inside, dangerous cancer cells can be spreading quickly to other areas of the body. The good news is that by understanding your skin, you can help spot a cancerous mole.

The skin is made up of multiple layers. The outermost layer, the epidermis, is thin but serves the very important role of protecting the deeper layers of skin. Within the epidermis are melanocytes, which are the cells that produce melanin. Melanin is what causes your skin to tan after exposure to the sun. When melanocytes group together, they form a mole. Most Americans have multiple moles.

Melanoma starts as a melanocyte, and while it appears like a mole, it is not. When diagnosed early, melanoma can be completely cured with a great outcome. However, once melanoma invades and spreads, it acts like any other cancer. One of the best ways to discover melanoma early is through regular dermatologist visits and skin self-exams.

The following are characteristics you should make note of during your self-exams:
  • Asymmetrical – If divided in half, both sides of your mole should be mirror images of each other
  • Border – Benign moles have a definitive border. Melanomas have irregular borders, usually scalloped or notched
  • Color – The color of the mole should be consistent throughout
  • Diameter – Moles should not be any larger than about ¼ inch
  • Evolution – If the mole changes at all in color, shape, texture, or size, it could be a sign of melanoma
Staying consistent with self-exams is important. One of the easiest ways to do this is to schedule time once a month to look at all of your moles. Make note of what they look like and schedule a follow-up with the dermatologist if you notice any changes.

Patients who have dysplastic moles or a family history of them are at an increased risk for developing melanoma. For these patients, regular dermatologist visits are extremely important to monitor any suspicious moles.

If at any time, you are uncertain about the characteristics of one of your moles, it is always best to make an appointment to have it evaluated. Early diagnosis of melanoma greatly increases the rate of survival. If you are in the McKinney area and you would like more information on spotting cancerous moles, call us today.

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