Lots of us have beauty marks. But how do you know when a dark spot on your skin is more than just a mole? The American Cancer Society recommends that you examine your moles regularly, looking for warning signs. Here are questions to ask yourself as you examine a mole properly for cancer.
Does the mole look symmetrical? A healthy, regular mole will be pretty much symmetrical in shape. That is, one side will look exactly the same as the other. Look at your mole and see if there are any edges that don't match the opposite side. If you do find your mole to be asymmetrical as you examine it for cancer, have it looked at by your doctor immediately.
Are there any edges of the mole that look irregular? When you're examining your mole, you should also look at the very edges of it. Look for a border around your mole that doesn't look quite right. It may have blurred edges, be slightly misshapen or be a different color. Regular moles tend to stop abruptly, but moles to be concerned about have edges that just kind of taper off or change color.
Has the color changed at all? As mentioned above, something else you need to look for when you examine a mole is color variation. Look closely to see whether or not the mole changes in color at all. This isn't limited to just the edges either - anywhere on the mole that goes from brown to red to purple or even orange is a warning sign that needs to be examined by your doctor immediately. You can never be too safe when it comes to the health of your skin.
Has your mole grown in size? Regular moles generally don't increase in size, but potentially cancerous ones do. Keep an eye on your mole over the course of a month or two and watch for it to grow in size or change shape slightly. (You may want to keep a tracing of your mole and a written measurement somewhere so that you have something to compare your monthly checks to.) Smaller moles are generally nothing to be concerned about. But anything that has a diameter (width) of more than 6 mm is abnormal.
Is your mole healthy? One of the first warning signs to occur that pushes people to examine moles more closely is a change in the surface texture of the mole. Generally, a pre-cancerous mole will appear crusted in places. And it might even have pus or liquid oozing from it. Obviously, this isn't normal and indicates an underlying problem with that mole.
Does your mole feel the same? Along with looking at your mole, you should also take mental notes of how it feels from time to time. Have you noticed a change in sensation on that area of your skin? Is it more sensitive than it usually is? Do you have pain there? All of these symptoms are warning signs you can come across as you examine your mole and require that you see your doctor immediately.