Most people have at least one or two of those cutaneous growths – different coloured pigmentations, protruding or flat. Can you identify cancerous moles when you see them? Common though they are, do you know a harmless spot from one that should cause alarm?
Should you be worried?
In spite of the large numbers of people who are affected by them, few know how to to distinguish a benign mole from one that is dangerous or has the potential to turn into melanoma (skin cancer). This is why it is vital to be mindful of your moles and to examine your skin well to look for warning signs. If you discover anything unusual, you should see your GP straight away.
The most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma because its spread is rapid and it can be very aggressive. It’s not always easy to determine through simple observation because it appears as pigment, on cells that are responsible for colour variants on your skin – moles, freckles and birthmarks.
How to identify cancerous moles
1. Spot the asymmetry
When you notice that a mole or birthmark has an asymmetrical shape where there are, for example, ragged edges on one side, this can indicate melanoma. The reason for this is because most moles are quite uniform. They’re either spherical or circular in shape. A mole or a birthmark that doesn’t have this sort of uniformity of shape could very well be dangerous.
2. How big is it?
As a general guideline, most moles rarely grow to be more than 1 cm in diameter. If there’s a mole on your skin that appears larger than that or one that seems to be getting bigger, consider booking an appointment with your GP. In fact, do book an appointment with your GP!
3. A sudden appearance
Any mole that seems to have turned up out of nowhere and then begins to look quite dark or black in colour should send you straight to your doctor. There’s a strong possibility that it is malignant.
4. Multi-coloured spots
Benign moles will usually be homogenous in colour, which is to say that their pigmentation is uniform and even. If you notice that there are many colours or various shades on a mole, it should ring alarm bells. This is one of the hallmarks of a carcinogenic mole.
5. Inflamed, painful, bloody or itchy?
Don’t ignore any of these symptoms. A mole that is painful is rarely a positive sign. If it’s looking inflamed or swollen, you urgently need to see your GP. These telltale signs often spell malignancy.
6. Blurred edges
Any mole that doesn’t have a clearly marked parameters – for instance, if its edges are blurry or not well defined – you should be concerned. A mole like this could be cancerous, as harmless moles are well-defined.
7. Is there a history?
If you don’t know, ask! Are there instances of skin cancer or cancerous moles in your family’s history? If you discover that there have been, it is advisable that you visit your GP as quickly as possible to establish your susceptibility to the disease. Although moles are not hereditary, skin type runs in the family. You’re better safe than sorry and a bit of knowledge could very well save your life.
To reduce your risk of developing any malignancies, you should make a habit of using sun block frequently and avoiding exposure to direct UV rays. Minimise contact with products that can threaten your skin’s health. And – sorry, folks – never use tanning beds!
Bear in mind…
When you’ve finished reading this article, have a good look at your skin. Search your body for any worrying discolouration or bumps. If you find any of the things that we’ve discussed, don’t risk your future. See your GP! Time can be on your side if you act quickly and seek treatment for anything that looks suspicious.