Most people have a few moles on their bodies, whether or not they’re visible to everyone. Sometimes it’s difficult to notice when a new mole shows up, since it might look like another among ones you already have. When a new one does appear, it could be a warning sign of something more serious. Keeping watch for moles on yourself is an important screening strategy for early stages of skin cancer.
A mole is a small spot on your skin that is darker than the surrounding area. Moles are usually brown or tan, forming when we’re young and staying with us for life. These are not problems and often are just part of your skin, like freckles or a birthmark. When a new dark spot appears, it can make us wonder if it’s a mark that has always been there or if it’s something to worry about.
During your regular skin care routine, you’ll probably take note of a clogged pore, a spot of inflammation, or dry skin, and you may notice a mole that you haven’t seen before. In this case, it’s understandable to feel a little alarmed. If you do notice a new dark spot, there are telltale signs that something might be wrong and that it should be examined by a professional. Dermatologists have an acronym, ABCDE, that will help you quickly evaluate whether or not you should have it checked out.
A stands for asymmetry, which is one of the first things you’ll notice about a mole. They are usually circular or oval, but if you have one whose sides aren’t the same, you’ll want to consider the next qualifier, B for border. If the edges of the mark aren’t smooth and well-defined, there might be a problem.
C is for color. If your mole is a weird color for your skin, then you should consider having it looked at, since this might be a sign of irregular growth. D, for diameter, refers to the size of the mole. If it’s larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser (6 mm), and if it is evolving (E) in size, then you should have it checked out by a doctor or dermatologist.
Protecting and caring for your skin is essential to keeping cells and tissue healthy. Only you can make the decision to wear sunscreen, not to tan, and to generally practice good sun damage avoidance tactics. Even the most careful among us can be susceptible to damage from the sun, so everyone should be vigilant about new spots appearing in areas that are exposed to sunlight.
Self-monitoring is an important way for people to regularly check for potential changes and can be an early intervention for a budding skin problem. At-home checks can’t replace an expert mole evaluation, however, and are intended to be a first step towards seeking professional support. If you notice a new spot and the ABCDE method leads you to believe it is suspicious, the next step is to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for an expert skin cancer screening.