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How to Help Assess the Risk of Melanoma in a Mole

Written By northidahodpc

How to Help Assess the Risk of Melanoma in a Mole

November 20, 2011

“How do I know if a mole is a skin cancer?”  This is an important and, unfortunately, frequently asked question.  The rate of melanoma, the most serious and aggressive type of skin cancer, is on the rise.  It is estimated that 1 in 50 people in the United States will be diagnosed with this dangerous cancer sometime during their lifetime, and North Idaho, including Kootenai County, has one of the highest rates in the nation.  It is therefore essential to have a thorough skin examination by a physician during the your yearly physical, or any time you  have a concern.  In the meantime make sure to take proper outdoor precautions to Stay Safe Out in the Sun, and be aware of the ABCDEs of skin lesion examination.  Here are the signs to look for that indicate a mole might be a melanoma:

  • A – Asymmetric: The lesion is asymmetric, or irregular.  If you were able to fold the skin lesion in half, the edges would not line up
  • B – Border: The border is blurred and it is difficult to tell where the mole starts and stops, as it seems to blend in with the  surrounding skin.
  • C – Color: There is color variation within the skin lesion.  Usually the colors range from brown to black, but the skin lesion sometimes takes on a red or bluish hue.
  • D – Diameter: If the mole is 6 mm or greater in diameter (1/4 inch), there is a greater chance of malignancy.  One simple home test is to see if the lesion is larger than a pencil eraser.
  • E – Expanding: A rapidly expanding or growing lesion is a concern for melanoma. Usually the change is noticed within a  few weeks to a few months.

Don’t delay in getting an examination if you notice one or more of these findings.  Early detection and removal significantly decreases the risk of metastasis and death from this aggressive cancer.  If you are concerned that you may have one or more of these symptoms, contact our office to schedule an appointment.

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