Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer overall, but it has higher survival rates than many other types of cancer. The main priority in skin cancer prevention is catching precancerous moles before they can spread, but many skin cancers go unnoticed until it is too late. If you want to take charge of your own health, you need to take the time to examine your skin and get any suspicious spots checked out. How do you tell if you have a mole or skin cancer? Read this guide to learn about identifying potential skin cancer symptoms.
Know What to Look For
Any effective home skin care screening relies on your personal knowledge. You have to know what potential problems are if you want to identify them. The first thing that should concern you is a mole that stands out from the rest. Anything that is unusually light, dark, small, or big compared to its neighbors may be an issue. Moles that have symptoms not associated with usual moles, like crusting or bleeding, may be cancerous as well.
During any examination, always remember the ABCDEs of skin cancer …
The first thing you should do when examining any mole is consider whether or not it is symmetrical. Most moles that are cancerous will not be a symmetrical oval or circle. Instead, you may notice that a suspicious mole has one half significantly bigger or one edge that is far wavier than the other.
Next, look at the border of the mole. A normal, healthy mole tends to have smoothly even borders all around the edge. There is typically a clear definition from where the skin stops and the mole begins. In contrast, cancerous moles may have edges that look notched and scalloped. Sometimes, there is no clear border and the mole just fades into the skin.
Check the mole’s color to see if it is similar to your other moles. A healthy mole tends to be medium shades of brown or reddish brown that are slightly darker than your natural skin. They are normally a uniform color. Suspicious moles tend to have uneven coloration with patches of tan or black. They may be more unusual colors like white, light pink, blue, tan, or red.
This sign of cancer refers to the overall width of the mole. Any mole that is more than a quarter inch wide may be cancerous. This is roughly the size of a pencil eraser. A large size is especially concerning if the mole has grown rapidly.
Finally, think about what a mole used to look like. Any rapid changes are always a problem. This can include moles that change their color, size, shape, or height. New symptoms like bleeding or itching around a mole are also a cause for concern.
Check Yourself Regularly
The American Cancer Society suggests that people check their skin once a month for suspicious spots. Regular checks are very important because it helps you get an idea of what your skin usually looks like. Then you can easily notice when anything unusual shows up.
- Step 1: Face your mirror. Begin your check by standing up and looking in a mirror that is large enough to show your face, upper torso, and arms.
- Step 2: Use a hand mirror. Turn around and use a hand mirror to examine your back, neck, buttocks, and shoulders.
- Step 3: Don’t forget hidden spots. Remember to look behind the ears, in the armpits, between fingers, and under any creases along the breasts and belly.
- Step 4: Check your scalp. Part your hair in several places or run a blow dryer over your hair to reveal any spots on your scalp.
- Step 5: Sit down. Sit down to carefully go over your thighs, calves, ankles, and toes. If necessary, use the hand mirror again to check behind your legs.
- Step 6: Look at your nails. Examine under your nails as much as possible to see if there is any discoloration.
Talk to Your Doctor Regularly about Skin Cancer Prevention
Remember that it is better to be safe than sorry. If something looks like it could be wrong, go ahead and call your doctor. They can examine the mole more in depth or do tests to let you know whether something is cancerous. Self checks are a valuable tool for maintaining skin health, but be sure to involve the professionals too. Any time you notice a spot that is suspicious, talk with your dermatologist about your treatment options.