5 Signs of Skin Cancer to Ask Your Doctor About
Most moles are basically round and symmetrical, while most skin cancer lesions are asymmetrical. Not all asymmetrical moles are signs of cancer, especially if you have always had them. However, asymmetrical moles that you never noticed before are worth further inspection, and it is important to keep an eye on existing ones as well.
Moles and birthmarks typically have somewhat clearly defined borders between them and the less-pigmented skin around them. Moles with ragged borders can be a concern, as are moles that blur or fade into the skin around them. This is particularly true of raised moles that bleed into the surrounding skin.
Moles and birthmarks should generally only be one color. If you see a mole or patch of skin that presents in a variety of shades of browns or contains pink, red, blue or white patches, ask your doctor to take a look at it. Moles that crack, bleed or scab over should also be checked by a doctor.
Minor skin imperfections and injuries are a part of life, but beware of large lesions. If you notice a mole or other mark on your skin that is more than a quarter of an inch in diameter, talk to your doctor. Smaller sores or injuries may also indicate a problem if they take more than three weeks to heal.
Evolving refers to moles, marks or lesions that are new or changing. Most people do not develop new moles past the age of 21, so if you notice a new one appear on your body, have a doctor examine it. Healthy moles and birthmarks also generally stay about the same size and shape, so ones that grow or change may indicate cancer.
While moles are the primary focus of most skin cancer checks, there are other things to look for as well. Patches of scaly or flaky skin that don't go away should be examined, as should any odd lumps or growths you notice. Don't neglect your lips, either. Persistent sores or rough patches on them can be an early indication of skin cancer.
Early detection is key when it comes to treating skin cancer, and many symptoms rely on self-examinations or other personal observations. Your doctor may give you a yearly check during your physical, but even so, she may miss subtle changes in your skin. Although not all of these changes are cancerous, it is always a good idea to have them checked by a doctor. Fortunately, there's an easy way to remember what do look for: Just remember your ABCDEs.