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The ABCDE Signs of Skin Cancer: "C" Is for Color

Is It a Mole or Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, as it is the most likely to spread to other areas of the body. However, if it is recognized early, it is often curable. But it can be difficult to determine whether the spot is a mole or melanoma. So how do you know what to look for?
 
Melanocytes are the cells that make the brown pigment that gives skin its color. In some areas of the skin, melanocytes form growths -- the noncancerous ones are called moles, while the cancerous growths are called melanomas.
 
When examining your skin, which you should try to do at least once a month, you want to look for any new spots. You will also want to check all existing moles and see if they are symmetrical. A noncancerous mole is usually symmetrical, meaning that if you drew a line down the middle of it, it would look the same on both sides. However, melanomas are usually asymmetrical.
 
Melanomas also have an uneven, notched, or ill-defined border. They usually tend to have a mixture of colors, including brown, black, blue, red, white, and tan. While noncancerous moles stay the same color, shape, and size, melanomas will change or may start bleeding or itching.
 

Time to Call Your Dermatologist

If you notice any of the potential signs of skin cancer, let your healthcare provider or dermatologist know. It's better to be safe than sorry. Contact your healthcare provider if you develop a new mole or notice any of the following changes in an existing mole:
 
  • The mole starts to itch
  • It bleeds or oozes
  • It changes color
  • It becomes uneven
  • The skin on the surface of the mole becomes dry or scaly
  • The mole changes in shape, texture, or height
  • The mole becomes hard or feels lumpy.
 
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