Skin Cancer Home > The ABCDE Signs of Skin Cancer: "D" Is for Diameter

Does having a large mole mean you have skin cancer? While it's true that moles larger than a pencil eraser (about ¼ inch thick) have a greater risk of being cancerous, the only way to know for sure is to check with your healthcare provider. If melanoma is suspected, part of the tissue will be removed and checked for cancer cells.


Who's at Risk for Skin Cancer?

Anyone who goes outside and is exposed to the sun is at risk for developing skin cancer. And just about everyone has at least some type of mole somewhere on their body.
However, even if you limited your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light or never went outside, you'd still be at risk for skin cancer -- it can develop in areas that have never been exposed to the sun. Although some things may increase your risk for skin cancer, such as having more than 100 moles on your body or having fair skin, being able to identify it early is the best way to prevent deadly, late-stage skin cancer.
There are five main signs to look for when trying to figure out if a mole might be skin cancer. Although there are several types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most dangerous. This type is most likely to spread to other organs in the body, where it can be difficult to treat and may be life-threatening. The signs to look for in a mole that may point to melanoma include:
  • A for asymmetry -- one half of a mole does not match the other
  • B for border irregularity -- the edges are irregular, notched, or blurred
  • C for color -- the color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue
  • D for diameter -- the spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch -- the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this
  • E for evolving -- the mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Let's focus on "D" -- looking at the size of the mole and how to tell if it may be an indication of skin cancer.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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