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

When it comes to melanoma, it's better to be safe than sorry. More cases of this skin cancer are diagnosed each year than all other cancers combined. So what should you look for? Is every mole a possible sign of carcinoma? One of the things you want to look for is asymmetry -- irregular moles with possible redness, scaly thickening, spreading of pigment, or other signs.

Knowing What to Look For

With more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed each year in the United States, skin cancer is considered the most common of all types of cancer -- even more than all the other cancers combined. However, being informed on what to look for can help protect you and your family. Knowing what the signs are and what to do about them can help you catch skin cancer early, when it is most effectively treated.
In most cases of skin cancer, the cause is from too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. This can include the sun or also manufactured sources, such as tanning beds. The most dangerous form of skin cancer is called melanoma, which often resembles moles. But how can you tell a good mole from a bad mole? Let's start with "A" in the ABCDEs of skin cancer prevention, which represents "asymmetry."

What a Good Mole Looks Like

Before you start looking at every mole on your body to frantically see if you have melanoma, it's important to know what you're looking for. Not every black mole is cancerous. Let's start with what a "good" mole looks like.
A "normal" mole is typically an even-colored brown, tan, or black spot. They are usually less than 6 millimeters (or ¼ inch) wide -- about the size of a pencil eraser. You can be born with moles, or they may appear during childhood or adolescence. While some moles may fade over time, normal moles usually stay the same size, shape, and color.
However, if you notice a new spot on your skin or a mole that is changing, such as in its size, shape, or color, it may be a sign of skin cancer. Another important warning sign is a spot that looks different from all your other moles.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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