Skin Cancer Home > The ABCDE Signs of Skin Cancer: "A" Is for Asymmetry

Start With "A" for Asymmetry

By definition, asymmetry is something that is not symmetrical, when two halves of something don't match or are unequal. In the early stages, most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you drew a line through the middle of a melanoma mole, it would not create matching halves. "Normal" moles are usually round and symmetrical.
Moles that are noncancerous will grow in a symmetrical, even fashion. However, when one area grows faster than the other, it causes irregular and uneven growths, which appear asymmetrical. If you can look at a mole and you could fold it in half to make a mirror image, then it is a "normal" mole. Asymmetrical moles will not fold perfectly to make two even sides.

How Do I Look for These Moles?

Although your healthcare provider can check your skin, it's important to do a thorough self-check once a month. Using a mirror, examine your skin thoroughly, carefully going over the entire surface of the skin. By doing this on a monthly basis, you can become familiar with where your moles are, and it will become easier to notice if they are changing.
If there are areas or moles that cause you any concern, let your healthcare provider know. Better to be safe than sorry. Catching skin cancer early is the best treatment.

Other Causes of Concern

Because not all forms of skin cancer follow the rules of identification, it's important to know some other red-flag signs. Some of these include:
  • Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of a mole
  • If a mole changes in sensation, such as if it starts to feel itchy, tender, or painful
  • A spot that forms a scab, rescabs, and won't heal
  • A pearly or waxy growth
  • Spreading of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
  • Changes in the surface of a mole, such as oozing, bleeding, or scaliness
  • A scaly skin thickening that develops in a small area (face, neck, or hands)
  • Any sore, blister, pimple, or other blemish that does not show signs of healing within two to three weeks.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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