Doctor examining the neck of a woman with a mole

Skin Cancer: How to Know If It’s More Than a Mole

Normal moles are small, dark spots on the skin that can be present during birth but usually appear during childhood or young adulthood. Moles that differ from normal ones in shape, size, and color can indicate melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. Spotting the differences can be challenging, but these signs will help you distinguish between a regular mole and melanoma.

Signs of Melanoma

Melanoma most often appears as an asymmetrical, irregularly bordered, multicolored or brown mole that increases in size over time. It may start flat and become more elevated. A melanoma will usually look different from the other spots on your skin. In rare cases the spot can be pink, red, normal skin color, or other colors, meaning it may be amelanotic, meaning it doesn’t have the skin pigment that turns a mole or melanoma brown or other dark colors.

Other warning signs that an irregular mole is a melanoma include itching, pain, elevation, bleeding, crusting, oozing, and other abnormal features.

The ABCs of Skin Cancer

Doctors can often identify an atypical mole using the “ABCDE” rule.

  • Asymmetry. One half of the mole differs from the other in shape, size, or color.
  • Border. The edges are not well defined and are blurred, notched, ragged, or irregular.
  • Color. The color is varied with different shades of dark tones or sometimes patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • Diameter. Irregular moles are generally larger than 6 millimeters (1/4th inch), although melanomas can be smaller than this on rare occasions.
  • Evolution. Your mole changes in size, shape, or color or appears after age 40.

Stay proactive about sun protection. If you notice any moles or symptoms that match these descriptions, seek a professional opinion immediately. Distinguishing between a normal mole and melanoma can be difficult; schedule an appointment with a Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care physician for a diagnosis.


Skin Cancer Foundation | How to Spot an Atypical Mole
American Cancer Society | Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma Skin Cancer

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