Dermatologist Explains: Warning Signs of Skin Cancer

  • New or changing moles: This is a common warning sign. Look for any moles that develop new characteristics, such as:
    • Asymmetry: One half of the mole doesn’t match the other half.
    • Border: The border is irregular, ragged, or blurred.
    • Color: The color is uneven, with shades of brown, black, tan, red, white, or blue.
    • Diameter: The mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser (around 6 millimeters).
  • Sores that don’t heal: A persistent sore that bleeds, crusts over, or heals and comes back could be a sign of skin cancer.
  • Red or scaly patches: These can appear anywhere on your body, but they’re more common on sun-exposed areas.
  • Unusual growths: Be on the lookout for any new bumps, lumps, or growths on your skin.

The American Cancer Society recommends using the ABCDE rule to remember these warning signs:

  • A: Asymmetry
  • B: Border irregularity
  • C: Color variation
  • D: Diameter larger than 6 millimeters
  • E: Evolving (changing in size, shape, or color)

Here are some additional tips:

  • Pay attention to your skin and perform regular self-exams. Look for any new or changing spots, and be sure to check areas you might not easily see, like your back or scalp.
  • Schedule regular skin cancer screenings with your doctor. They can perform a thorough examination and recommend any necessary follow-up tests.
  • Protect your skin from the sun. This is the most important way to prevent skin cancer. Limit sun exposure, wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day, and wear protective clothing, such as hats and sunglasses.

If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s important to see your doctor right away. Early detection and treatment are essential for successful skin cancer treatment.