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If Your Mole Looks Like This, It's Time to See a Doctor

Be vigilant for symptoms of skin cancer year-round.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, but it's important to be vigilant for symptoms of skin cancer year-round. Any change in a mole or freckle could be a sign of skin cancer. Regular self-exams can lead to early detection of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, which can be life-saving. Here are the warning signs to look for. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

If A Mole Changes In These Ways, See a Doctor

The dermatologist examines the moles or acne of the patient with a dermatoscope. Prevention of melanoma
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Experts advise checking your skin regularly and applying the ABCDE test to any moles or freckles. If you notice any of the following, it's a good idea to consult a doctor ASAP:

A = asymmetry

B = border changes

C = color changes

D = diameter changes (such as an increase in size)

E = elevation or evolution (a growth that has changed over time)

The American Academy of Dermatology says that in addition to changes, if you see any spot on your skin that's different from the others, or see any itching or bleeding, you should make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.

2

When Is Size a Concern?

Dermatologist examining moles of patient

The AAD says that although most melanomas are greater than the size of a pencil eraser—about six millimeters—melanoma is often diagnosed when it's smaller. About 50 percent of melanomas are self-detected. 

3

When Is Color a Concern?

Young woman looking at birthmark on her back, skin. Checking benign moles.
Shutterstock

According to the AAD, a spot that's suspicious for cancer may have varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown or black, or areas of white, red, or blue. Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined borders can also be a sign of skin cancer.

4

How to Do a Skin Self Exam

Girl with birthmarks on the neck
Shutterstock

These are the steps the AAD advises you take in doing a skin self-exam:

  • Check your body in a full-length mirror, both sides with your arms raised
  • Examine your underarms, forearms, and palms
  • Look at your legs, the soles of your feet, and between your toes
  • Use a hand mirror to check your hair and scalp
  • Use a hand mirror to check your back and buttocks
5

How to Reduce Your Risk of Skin Cancer

woman applying sunscreen lotion standing outdoors at the urban location during the sunny weather
Shutterstock

To reduce your risk of skin cancer, the CDC advises limiting your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is produced by the sun and tanning beds. Those steps include avoiding indoor tanning and protecting your skin from the sun, particularly when the UV Index in your area is above 3. The protective steps include staying in the shade, wearing clothes that protect your arms and legs, wearing a hat, and wearing an broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more
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