Ask the Pharmacist: July/August 2019

How can I tell if my mole is skin cancer?

Moles are typically smaller than five millimeters wide. In addition, they are typically round or oval in shape. A mole will usually have a smooth surface and distinct edge. It will typically be an even pink, brown, or tan. You will typically find moles on areas of your body that are exposed to the sun.

If you notice any changes in any of your moles, speak with your health care provider. Some changes to look for include a change in color, size, shape, texture, or height. The surface may become dry or scaly, or the mole may become hard or lumpy. It may begin to itch or bleed.

Melanoma tends to display certain characteristics. Follow the “ABCDE” rule to detect the characteristics of early melanoma:
Asymmetry. Check to see if the shape is asymmetrical. When
asymmetrical, one half of the mole doesn’t match the other half
of the mole.
Border irregularity. With melanoma, you may see an edge that
is ragged or blurred when compared to a distinct edge seen in a
common mole. In addition, you may notice the color spreading
onto the surrounding skin.
Color uneven. You may notice shades of black, brown, and tan. You
may even see gray, red, pink, white, or blue in some areas.
Diameter increase. You may notice an increase in the size of the
mole. Although melanomas can be tiny, most of them will be larger
than six millimeters wide.
Evolving. You may notice the mole has changed over a period of
time (past few weeks or months).

Many melanomas show all of the “ABCDE” characteristics, but not all do. Some melanomas only show one or two of the characteristics. If you’re unsure, speak with your health care provider. Check your skin regularly for changes in moles or for a new colored area. When you check your skin often, you will familiarize yourself with what’s normal. Experts recommend checking your skin after you shower or bathe. If you have any questions about moles or skin cancer, don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider.