If Your Mole Looks Like This, It's Time To See A Dermatologist

By adulthood, the average person has between 10 and 40 birthmarks on their body. These small growths on the skin — which are usually round or oval in shape and pink, tan, brown, or black in color — are very common and generally harmless.
But occasionally, an abnormal mole can be a sign of melanoma, a relatively rare but deadly form of skin cancer. So it's important to know what to look for. (Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, account for the majority of cases but tend to be less aggressive.)
Melanoma can develop from an existing mole, but more commonly it appears as a new lesion on the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body, but the most common places are the chest and back in men and the legs in women.
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The good news is that if melanoma is caught early, it's usually curable, said dermatologist Dr. Darrell S. Rigel to HuffPost.
"If caught early, simple removal is usually enough to achieve a cure," said Rigel, clinical professor of dermatology and director of the melanoma surveillance clinic at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine.
However, once it has spread, the survival rate for melanoma is less than 50% — even with some of the newly available treatments, Rigel explained, noting that this cancer "spreads early in its course."
Certain factors can increase your risk of melanoma, including excessive sun exposure, use of indoor tanning beds, atypical birthmarks, and a family history of the disease. It's also more common in people with fair skin that burns easily, red or blonde hair, and light-colored eyes.
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People of color are much less likely to get melanoma than white people — but are more likely to die if they get it due to a lack of public and professional awareness. In people with darker skin tones, melanoma tends to appear in areas that are less exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or under the fingernails or toenails.
How to spot a suspicious mole
To determine if your birthmark is actually a cancerous melanoma, use the dermatologist-supported ABCDE rule, which stands for Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Development.
If your birthmark meets one or more of the following criteria, make an appointment with your dermatologist to have it examined. Don't panic: most atypical moles don't become cancerous. But it is worth having suspicious areas examined to be on the safe side.
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Asymmetry: If you drew a line down the middle of the mole, one half would not match the other's shape or size.
If you drew a line down the middle of an asymmetrical mole, the two halves would not match. (Photo: American Academy of Dermatology)
If you drew a line down the middle of an asymmetrical mole, the two halves would not match. (Photo: American Academy of Dermatology)
Irregular border: It may have borders that are ridged, wavy, or blurred, "which means the borders between the birthmark and normal skin are unclear," said dermatologist Dr. Joyce Park from Seattle by HuffPost.
A mole with an irregular edge may have scalloped or nicked edges. (Photo: American Academy of Dermatology)
A mole with an irregular edge may have scalloped or nicked edges. (Photo: American Academy of Dermatology)
Uneven Color: Pay attention if the coloring isn't uniform throughout. The same mole can contain "shades of red and pink, different shades of brown and black," Park said. As it grows, you may even notice some white or blue appearing.
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