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

When examining your skin, pay extra attention to the color of your moles -- they can offer clues as to whether you have skin cancer. Normal moles tend to stay the same color (usually a shade of brown), while melanomas often change in color. A mole that is black doesn't necessarily mean you have skin cancer, but it should be looked at by a dermatologist.


Is It Just a Mole or Something More?

Cancerous moles can vary significantly in how they look. However, there are a number of things you can be on the lookout for when trying to tell the difference between a normal mole and one that you might need your dermatologist to look at.
The ABCDE signs of skin cancer take into account five main factors that are red flags for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. These include the following:
  • 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.
This article will focus on "C" -- the color factor for identifying skin cancer.

Why Does Color Matter?

The color of a mole can be a significant indicator for skin cancer. Just because a mole isn't black, however, doesn't mean it isn't cancerous. Noncancerous moles are usually a single shade, in most cases some sort of brown color. However, if a single mole contains various shades of brown, tan, or black, it is a cause for concern. Skin cancer can also appear as other colors, including white, blue, pink, and red.
Skin cancer can develop as a new spot, or it can also develop in a previously "normal" mole. If you notice a mole that was previously a uniform color and it starts to change in color, shape, or size, it may be a sign of skin cancer.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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