One of the most common questions we get asked is, "How do I know if my mole is cancerous?"
Here in the Southeastern United States, we are all exposed to the damaging effects of UV rays Every. Single. Day. Rain or shine, winter or summer, the sun is always out and most of us experience the damaging effects of UV radiation. And we know for a fact that 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.
So, what are the warning signs that you may be developing a skin cancer?
The pnemonic "ABCDE" is helpful in evaluating whether that new mole is worrisome or not. If your mole meets one or more of the following criteria, you ought to have your mole checked:
A = asymmetry -- when the two sides of your mole don't match
B = border -- if the border or edge of your mole is irregular
C = color -- if the mole is multiple colors or changing colors
D = diameter -- if the mole is growing in size or is larger than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser)
E = evolution -- if the mole is changing
And in general, we find it most helpful to evaluate by the "new or changing" criteria - which means if you have a mole that is new or changing, you ought to have it looked at -- particularly if it has irregularities in color, shape, or border or has become symptomatic such as itching or bleeding.
And don't be fooled if the mole isn't brown! Although melanoma often has pigment with it, it can be pink and other skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are often pink.
When in doubt, get it checked!