Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Font Size

People at Risk for Skin Cancer Are Good at Spotting Mole Changes

WebMD Health News

May 17, 2000 -- Three-quarters of people at high-risk for a fatal form of skin cancer were able to detect increases in the size of moles on their back by doing skin self-examinations, Canadian researchers report in the May issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

One of the first signs that a mole is turning cancerous is an increase in size. And since early detection is the key to successfully treating skin cancer, this study's good news seems perfectly timed, as May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention month, according to the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society (ACS).

In the study of 103 people who had been performing skin self exams well for at least a year, 75% of people were able to notice a 4 millimeter change in the size of a mole on their mid-back, and 58% noticed a 2 millimeter change.

"The take-home message is that people with a lot of moles can be taught to do the skin self-exams and pick up on changes in the size of their moles," says lead researcher Lynn From, MD, the head of the division of dermatology at the Women's College Campus of the Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

People with a lot of moles have about 10 times the risk of developing skin cancer compared with people who have fewer moles, she tells WebMD.

Study participants were considered to be at high risk for melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer, because they had more moles than people in the general population. Melanoma accounts for about 4% of skin cancer cases, but causes about 79% of skin cancer deaths. About 47,700 new melanomas are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. during the year 2000, according to the ACS.

Besides growth, other signs that a mole is cancerous include an irregular border, discoloration, and an asymmetric shape -- meaning that half of the mole does not match the other half.

Study participants performed three skin self-exams in which different moles on their back were artificially enlarged with a color-matched eyebrow pencil by 0, 2, and 4 millimeters. So that participants would not know which moles were enlarged, the researchers pretended to draw on many moles.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Malignant melanoma
About 40-50 percent of those who live to be 65 may get it. Here’s how to spot early.
Woman checking out tan lines
There’s a dark side to that strive for beauty. See them here.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
12 Ways to Protect Your Skin from Melanoma
precancerous lesions slideshow
Do You Know Your Melanoma ABCs
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
screening tests for men
Vitamin D
Is That Mole Skin Cancer
Brilliant sun rays