How to Spot Skin Cancer May 15, 2023 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team
The best way to beat skin cancer is through early detection. The sooner you identify the symptoms and get a diagnosis, the higher your chances of avoiding surgery and disfiguration. It's crucial to do regular self-examinations so you can detect irregularities as soon as they appear.To help you, here's how to spot the signs of skin cancer. Patients rarely feel pain or other sensations, so your eyes and a mirror are your best tools.Use the Alphabet as a GuideYou can use the first five letters of the alphabet to remind you of the warning signs of melanoma:A for AsymmetryThe first indication of melanoma is asymmetry. If you were to draw a line in the middle of a mole, the two sides wouldn't match. Regular moles are symmetrical and are either round or oval.B for BorderMelanoma lesions have uneven or scalloped borders. Regular moles have smooth and even edges.C for ColorMultiple colors can be a warning sign of melanoma. Melanoma lesions can have various shades of tan, brown, and black. You may also spot blue, red, and white as it develops. Also, be wary of moles that are lighter or darker than others. Regular moles are usually one shade of brown.D for DiameterConsult a doctor immediately if you notice your mole is growing. It's best to treat melanoma lesions while they're still small. Take it as a warning sign if a mole is as big as a pencil eraser or around a quarter of an inch in diameter.E for EvolvingBe mindful of changes in your mole, including its color, size, shape, and elevation. Other signs of melanoma are itching, crusting, and bleeding.Look for Ugly DucklingsAnother way to spot skin cancer is to look for "ugly ducklings." This recognition method relies on the fact that most regular moles look alike, while melanoma sticks out like an ugly duckling. It highlights the importance of comparing your moles to each other and looking for anomalies.A mole is an ugly duckling if it's lighter, darker, smaller, or broader than the others around it. Also, lone lesions with no other moles in the area are ugly ducklings.Familiarize Yourself With Unusual Warning SignsSome forms of melanoma are tricky to spot because they have unusual warning signs. Here are some symptoms to look out for:Acral Lentiginous MelanomaWhile people of color are less prone to skin cancer, that doesn't mean they can't get it. Acral lentiginous melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer in people of color. It begins in less noticeable spots like under the finger or toenails and on the soles of the feet.Amelanotic MelanomaAmelanotic melanomas lack the dark pigment that's present in most moles. They can be pink, red, or white. They can even be colorless or the same color as your skin, making them extra hard to spot.The Bottom LineNo matter your risk level for skin cancer, you must check yourself regularly from head to toe. Notice if you have new moles or lesions or if your existing ones look or feel different. In addition, be wary of spots or sores that don't heal or moles that become itchy or swollen.When in doubt, consult a dermatologist. Melanoma can be fatal once it progresses, so it's better to be safe and go for a check-up. Make sure you visit your dermatologist yearly for a professional skin exam. For more information, contact Complete Family Dermatology at (402) 423-1111.