Skin cancer is extremely common and highly deadly. With one person every hour succumbing to this devastating disease, time is of the utmost essence when it comes to survival. If caught early, the prognosis is generally quite good, but the longer someone waits to receive treatment, the worse the outcome. Being able to identify the various symptoms of cancerous moles is critical; the sooner it’s detected, the sooner treatment can commence. Keep reading to learn more about the various symptoms of cancerous moles and how to properly identify them at a glance to help facilitate prompt medical care.
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Symptoms of Cancerous Moles (in Pictures)
Typically, the first sign of skin cancer is a change in the appearance of your skin. A sudden new mole, for instance, can signal the first warning bells that you might have a problem.
Any changes to your moles can also be a major sign of cancer. For more information about the signs of cancerous moles, click here.
Keep an eye out for the following indications of a cancerous mole:
- A: Is your mole asymmetrical, not a mirror image of itself?
- B: Does it have an irregular, uneven border?
- C: Has the color changed or does it have multiple colors?
- D: Is the diameter of the mole larger than 6mm across?
- E: Has it started to change or evolve in the past few weeks?
However, it’s important to remember that these are not the only symptoms of a cancerous mole. Failure to recognize the other signs could be a very dangerous mistake.
Other indicators of a cancerous mole are:
- Ulcerated wound: A bleeding sore that doesn’t heal is something to discuss with your dermatologist or general healthcare provider.
- Redness and swelling: If you have a painful mole that has irritation expanding beyond its borders, it might be a sign of cancer. Learn more about what a painful mole means by clicking here.
- Blurry pigment: The color of the mole should be self-contained, not infiltrating other nearby skin cells.
- Changes in appearance: A mole should not be scaling or bleeding, nor should it change in appearance in any way. Find out more about why you might have a bleeding mole.
- New sensation: If you have an itchy mole, or if it starts to suddenly hurt or feel tender or bruised, contact your doctor immediately.
Remember that not all symptoms will show up on an existing mole – the sudden presence of a new mole should warrant further inspection from your doctor.
If caught early, skin cancer has an almost 100% five-year survival rate. As the disease progresses, though, that rate drops dramatically. If caught by Stage III, you could still have an up to 70% chance of surviving this disease. When it reaches Stage IV, distant metastasis, your prognosis drops down to 7%. The difference between life and death is a mere matter of months, which is why early detection is so vital in survival.
Monitor your moles closely. If you have a family history of skin cancer, check your nevi monthly.
Risk factors for skin cancer include:
- Fair skin.
- Blonde hair.
- Blue or green eyes.
- A personal or family history of skin cancer.
- A history of tanning, including indoor tanning booths.
- A history of sunburns, especially earlier in life.
- Having a specific type of mole.
|Typical skin type definition||Skin reaction on over exposure to UV light||Comments on skin type|
Very light skin.
Does not tan.
|Pale, sometimes mixed with freckles. Usually, admit that they burn.|
|2||Light to medium hair.|
Light to medium eyes.
Light to medium skin.
|Normally the first consideration for average light skin (aside from obvious skin type 1). Often deny that they burn but admit to turning pink and needing to take care in sun.|
Medium to dark eyes.
Medium to olive skin.
|Usually, do not recognize that they burn moderately if exposure is moderate. Will comment that they “Can get a good tan with care”.|
Dark olive to light brown skin.
|Consider they tan easily. Will rarely burn from moderate exposure in northern climates. Often surprised when they get a “little” sunburn while visiting higher intensity locations.|
|Burning requires no previous exposure for months, then exposure to very high levels of UV intensity (100+ on the SUNSOR scale – a sunny summer day in Florida).|
Very dark skin.
|Does not burn.|
No change in color.
|Individuals have very good pigmentation that affords exceptional protection in ultraviolet light.|
People with deeper skin tones and brown eyes also get skin cancer; this is not a problem exclusive to fair-skinned people.
Some people may have FAMMM (familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndromes), which is an inherited genetic condition that means (A) one or more of your close family members had skin cancer; (B) Multiple moles, including atypical moles; and (C) moles that meet certain diagnostic criteria under a microscope.
If you have this condition, you are at an even higher risk of developing skin cancer.
Remain vigilant; you are your own main advocate, and frequent skin checks could save your life.
Red Moles Cancer Symptoms
Moles are very common. Almost everyone has them, and the fairer your skin, the more likely you are to have these spots of pigment.
Most people can have anywhere between 10-40 moles at any given time. Formed when pigment cells (“melanocytes”) clump together, they are mostly benign and harmless.
However, sometimes a mole can be atypical (also known as “dysplastic”), which means that it doesn’t conform to the normal standards of a common mole. You can read more about dysplastic moles here.
The criteria for a common mole are:
- Less than ¼ inch across.
- Tan or brown in color.
- Dome shaped.
- Even in shape, color, and border.
- Round or oval.
A red mole does not fall within these diagnostic measures and may be an early symptom of skin cancer.
Please note that not all red bumps on your body are necessarily red moles, nor are they skin cancer.
For instance, cherry angioma resembles red moles but are actually benign tumors that form where an excess of blood vessels cluster together. You can read more about cherry angiomas here.
A red mole isn’t always a sign of skin cancer, but it should be treated with the utmost caution. According to the National Cancer Institute, red moles are very uncommon and only seem red when your own natural skin has red undertones. Click here to learn more about what causes red moles.
Keep an eye out for these signs that your red mole is skin cancer:
- It’s larger than ¼ inch across.
- It has irregular edges and borders.
- It’s uneven in color and may have traces of white, blue, and black.
- It’s jagged, scaly, or crusty.
- It starts to bleed or ooze.
When in doubt, visit your dermatologist. A brief, painless appointment could save your life.
Five Other Symptoms of Skin Cancer (Besides Moles)
It’s a common misconception that the only sign of skin cancer is changing to your moles.
Often, we are reminded to do mole checks on our bodies, and when nothing unusual turns up, we breathe a sigh of relief until our next checkup.
However, it would be a dangerous mistake to think that the only signs of skin cancer appear in the form of atypical moles.
These five signs of skin cancer are unique and not at all associated with moles:
- Oozing, Open Wounds: Basal cell carcinoma often appears as a bloody, open, or scabbed-over lesion on the skin’s surface. While they are at low risk of spreading or metastasizing, they can cause permanent damage if they form near the mouth or the eyes.
- Itchy, Red Patches: Another sign of basal cell carcinoma, these can show up looking as innocent as dry skin. Itching, scaling, and peeling are all signs that your immune system is attacking cancerous cells.
- Pitting Craters: Squamous cell carcinomas often appear as a raised bump with a divot in the center, not unlike a volcano. Rarely deadly, they can also cause permanent disfigurement, so have it checked out by your doctor to be certain.
- Red, Scaling Masses: A persistent lump can be another sign of squamous cell carcinoma. It may resemble a wart or scab, and if it doesn’t heal on its own shortly, have it checked out by a medical professional.
- Other Signs: Unfortunately, if you start to experience shortness of breath, headaches, or loss of vision, it may mean that a melanoma has started to attack other organs in your body. If it spreads to your lungs, you may have breathing problems. Spreading to your brain can lead to headaches and vision loss. It is far better to catch your cancer before it gets to this stage, as by the time it reaches this point, the outcome is not going to be as good as if you caught it early. You can learn more about melanoma treatment here.
If you remain careful about checking your skin for any changes and visit your dermatologist often, you can minimize negative risks of skin cancer. If caught early, this disease is highly treatable.
Do not delay treatment if you observe any tangible changes to your skin’s surface. The difference between life or death can literally be a window of a few weeks – check your skin today to protect your health and help ensure your future.
You can find further details of Types of moles here.