Learning to identify melanoma on your skin is a valuable skill to have. That’s because it’s the deadliest form of skin cancer, but it is also simple to watch out for. After all, it grows right on your skin, so you can’t miss it, right? Sort of. Clearly, you’ll notice any drastic changes when they happen, but there are some easy ways to identify melanoma so you can alert your dermatologist right away. Early detection is the key to a high survival rate.
One of the easiest ways to identify melanoma is to watch for obvious changes on your skin. Maybe you’ve always had a mole on the back of your leg, but now it looks larger or is shaped differently than before. Both could indicate skin cancer. Familiarize yourself with all your moles and freckles so that you can easily see if a change occurs. Give yourself a quick once over every month or so to look for changes.
2. A New Mole
Yes, people get moles during their lifetime, but sometimes it can indicate a growing melanoma. If you suddenly notice a new mole somewhere on your body, it really pays to get it checked out by your dermatologist as soon as possible to rule out skin cancer. This is especially true if you have never had a mole before.
Most moles are completely benign and will stay that way for your entire life. However, a larger mole could indicate melanoma, especially if it has recently grown in size. Look for anything larger than a pencil eraser. If you have such a spot, make an appointment to have it looked at. Larger moles are sometimes cancerous so your dermatologist will likely want to remove it for a better look.
4. Different Colors
While moles, freckles, and other skin spots tend to look lighter or darker across your body, the ones that are two-toned warrant a check. For example, if you have a lightly colored mole that is darker in the center or the edges, it’s probably something you want to have looked at. Likewise, if you have a mole or spot that suddenly begins to change color, you could be looking at melanoma.
5. Irregular Border
If you look at your moles you’ll likely notice that they are generally symmetrical. That’s normal. However, if your moles were folded in half and they edges wouldn’t line up, it could be melanoma. So if you see a mole or skin spot that is irregular, be cautious. Also, healthy moles tend to be circular, so if you have a scalloped or spiked edge on a spot, it could also indicate skin cancer.
6. Texture Changes
Moles are usually smooth or just slightly bumpy, depending on how large they are. A mole that changes in texture is one you want to stay on top of. Run your hands lightly over your moles now and then so you can detect if one of them feels rough or otherwise strange. That way you can catch a potential problem early.
7. Itching and Bleeding
Itchy skin is something we all deal with at some point in our lives, as is scratching so hard we bleed. However, if you have a mole or skin spot that is itchy and bleeding, you might have melanoma. It will be the spot itself that itches and bleeds rather than appearing in random places. If that should happen, call your dermatologist right away.
How do you keep track of your skin health? I’ve had more than 20 skin biopsies, all of which have luckily been normal. But I don’t take my skin health lightly. Which one of these steps was new to you?