Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Spot a Cancerous Mole

        Health | Skin Anatomy

Cancerous Mole Signs

We all have things we do every month like checking the air pressure in the family car's tires, balancing the checkbook, giving the dog heartworm medicine. It's easy enough to add one more thing to the list --especially when it might save your life. Check your freckles and moles every 30 days -- take  note of what they look like and if any of them have changed. Change can mean a potential problem.

During your monthly mole monitoring, use the ABCDE method from the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • Asymmetrical: When you draw a line down the middle of your mole, the two sides should mirror each other.
  • Irregular border: Moles should have a definite border. Melanoma borders usually have notches or scallop shapes.
  • Changes in color: A mole might be dangerous if you notice the color isn't consistent throughout.
  • Diameter: A mole should be no larger than ¼ inch (6.35 mm) in diameter.
  • Evolving: A mole that sometimes changes in shape, color, height or texture is suspect. If you develop a new mole and it starts to itch or burn, it could be a sign that it's not healthy [source: Mayo Clinic].

Any mole that is asymmetrical, has an irregular border, changes in color, size, shape, height or texture, hurts or oozes fluids or blood should be shown to your doctor. During your annual appointment, your doctor may perform a complete skin check.

There are a few things that you should keep in mind in addition to these physical signs. You may be at high risk for developing melanoma if you have dysplastic moles. These moles are larger than ¼ inch (6.35 mm), have dark centers and irregular borders. Often they are hereditary, so other members of your family may have them as well. Even a single dysplastic mole will mean your risk of developing melanoma has doubled. If you have a family history of skin cancer or more than 50 moles, you also are at an increased risk [source: Mayo Clinic].

You've found a suspicious mole and you've made an appointment to see your doctor. What happens next? Read on to find out.