Are my moles dangerous?
Haider Zafar, MD is an oncologist on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. His office can be reached at (623) 478-8091.
Question: Moles and skin spots can be signs of skin cancer, yet we all have them. How can I tell if the moles and marks on my skin are harmless or early warning signs of skin cancer?
Answer: Skin cancer, with its many forms, is by far the most common form of cancer in the U.S. More cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year than all other forms of cancer combined. Fortunately, our skin provides warning signs in the form of moles and other lesions that, if we pay attention, can alert us to potential problems.
Of course, we were all born with moles and various spots on our skin, almost all of which are harmless. However, there are moles, marks and skin lesions that may indicate something more serious is going on.
For this reason, regular self-examinations of our skin are critical for early detection. When performing self-examinations it’s important to know what to look for. To help in identifying early warning signs of skin cancer, the ABCD rule was developed.
The presence of any of the following features warrants a discussion with your healthcare provider.
A = Asymmetry. Moles should be symmetrical. If you draw an imaginary line through the center of a mole and the 2 halves differ in shape and/or color, further evaluation may be necessary.
B = Borders. Borders that are jagged, uneven or blurry are considered abnormal.
C = Color. Moles are generally brown and consistent in color. Moles that contain different colors or shades of color may signify a problem area.
D = Diameter. Normal moles are smaller in diameter than a pencil eraser. Skin spots that are larger should be evaluated.
Additional things to look for include moles or lesions that are: new or changing; elevated from the skin surface; itchy or painful; or, prone to bleeding if scratched.
If you notice any of these features or have concerns about the health of your skin, talk with your healthcare provider. Proactively protecting your skin from the sun, conducting regular self-examinations, and consulting your healthcare provider goes a long way toward maintaining healthy skin.
No matter where you are going, if you are headed outside, you should use sunscreen. Be especially vigilant if you are in the water or out during peak hours or for a length of time.