Should you be worried about your moles? When to see the doctor.

One example of a melanoma (larger than actual size), courtesy National Cancer Instituteby James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Melanoma (mole cancer) kills–way too often. It doesn’t have to.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in America. Melanoma is a deadly form of it if not detected early. But your doctor can catch it!

Remember “ABCD” for possible signs of melanoma.

Assymetry: Half of the mole is different from the other.
Borders: Irregular edges.
Color: Shades of tan, brown, black, red, white or blue.
Diameter: Larger that the circumference of a pencil eraser.

Young women have more melanomas but men die more often because they ignore the risk. Get screened by your doctor. There are some good photos at the NIH Web site. (The one pictured–larger than actual size–is from the National Cancer Institute.)

How can you decrease your risk for skin cancers? Simple: Limit your sun exposure. JHMFD has a good article on this. Exactly how much sun you should get is another question. In fact, it’s quite a controversy within the medical community. I will go into that in my next blog.

Here’s a press release about skin cancer in general, in which dermatologist Gervaise L. Gerstner, M.D., says, “Lips, tops of ears, receding hairlines are all common spots for precancerous growths.” He also urges everyone to get a yearly full-body exam. (The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends neither for nor against that.)

Have you ever had a mole checked? Please share your experiences below.

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7 Responses to “Should you be worried about your moles? When to see the doctor.”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    This topic is a daily discussion at our home. My wife has a history of melanoma in her family. She visits her Dermatologist every 12 months and has had a number of moles removed… problems thus far. I have little doubt that the number of skin issues will increase going forward. The word needs to get out quicker. On a milder tone, the running joke in my household is that we have so much sunscreen we could open up our own store, well….at least that is what the kids say :) . Excellent post!

  2. lhubbard Says:

    I’ve had dermatologists check my moles a few times. It’s a surprisingly quick process.

    Usually, they say everything’s fine, but this last time, I had a mole removed from the bottom of my foot (a place they tell you not to forget to check). That wasn’t even one I was worried about! They sent it to a lab, and it turned out noncancerous.

    Peace of mind is a wonderful thing.

    Leigh Ann Hubbard
    Managing Editor
    James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor

  3. Dr. Hubbard Says:

    Thanks for the comments. Sounds like you are on top of it. That is really all you can do, stay out of the sun and get regular checkups. Make sure the dermatologist checks you from top to bottom in every nook and cranny. Don’t be shy. The most common place for melanoma on women is on the back of the legs. Regarding the sunscreen don’t forget the lips with sunscreen lip balm or chapstick.

  4. Judy Rodman Says:

    Would it be a bad idea to just have large moles taken off even if they are non-cancerous? I have one on my chest that they always say is fine, but I wonder as I get older if I’ll overlook a problem there.

  5. Judy Rodman Says:

    Also… are freckles a potential problem if they enlarge?

    Judy Rodmans last blog post..Good news for recording artists… sales slump may be overrated

  6. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H Says:

    Hi Judy, I always say that if it is worrying you, have it removed. However, the fact is that yours is in an area that you see on a regular basis and it is unlikely that it would change without you noticing. True freckles are not a problem as long as you are not confusing them with other skin lesions that look like freckles. Just have your doctor take a quick look at your next visit.

  7. tisort Says:

    very nice article

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