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Moles, Freckles, and Skin Tags

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How Do I Know if a Mole Is Cancer? continued...

Examine your skin with a mirror or ask someone to help you. Pay special attention to areas of the skin that are often exposed to the sun, such as the hands, arms, chest, neck, face, and ears.

If a mole does not change over time, there is little reason for concern. If you see any signs of change in an existing mole, if you have a new mole, or if you want a mole to be removed for cosmetic reasons, talk to your dermatologist.

The following ABCDEs are important characteristics to consider when examining moles. If a mole displays any of the signs listed below, have it checked immediately by a dermatologist. It could be cancerous.

  • Asymmetry. One half of the mole does not match the other half.
  • Border. The border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular.
  • Color. The color of the mole is not the same throughout or has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red.
  • Diameter. The diameter of a mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil.
  • Evolution. The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer. The most common location for melanoma in men is the chest and back and in women, it is the lower leg. Melanoma is the most common cancer in young women.

How Are Moles Treated?

If a dermatologist believes a mole needs to be evaluated further or removed entirely, he or she will either remove the entire mole, or first take just a small tissue sample of the mole to examine thin sections of the tissue under a microscope (a biopsy). This is a simple procedure. (If the dermatologist thinks the mole might be cancerous, cutting through the mole will not cause the cancer to spread.)

If the mole is found to be cancerous, and only a small section of tissue was taken, the dermatologist will remove the entire mole by cutting out the entire mole and a rim of normal skin around it, and stitching the wound closed.

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