When was the last time you got up close and personal with your moles? If it’s been a while, it is time to take another look.
The more familiar you are with your moles, the more likely you’ll notice if they start to look different — or if any new ones crop up.
That’s important because a change in a mole’s size, shape or color is one of the main signs of melanoma—an aggressive type of skin cancer that, if not treated, can quickly spread to other parts of the body and be deadly. And while the risk of melanoma increases as people age, it is not uncommon, even among those younger than 30. In fact, it’s one of the most common cancers in young adults.
Nearly everyone has moles, and they’re almost always harmless. Normal moles are usually oval or round, about 1/4 inch across, and the same color—brown, tan or black—all over.
A few key signs that may indicate melanoma include:
- Look different from other moles (known as the ugly duckling sign).
- Get bigger.
- Have unusual shapes; uneven edges; or shades of colors, including white, red or blue.
- Ooze, bleed or become scaly.
But not all melanoma comes in the form of a mole.
“Sores or bruises that won’t heal or growths that feel itchy or tender can also signal melanoma,” says Dr. Steven Brown of Alpine Medical. “If you have any of these signs, don’t ignore them. Make an appointment and talk with your healthcare provider.”
If you have an area of concern, your doctor will likely do a skin exam and may suggest a biopsy in which a small amount of suspect tissue is removed and examined under a microscope for cancer cells.
“The goal of treatment for skin cancer is to remove or destroy the cancer, while saving as much healthy skin as possible,” says Brown, “However the method of treatment depends on the stage of the cancer.”
Treatment is almost always effective when melanoma is found early. If you have any areas of concern, make an appointment with your primary care provider today. If you don’t yet have a provider, let the professionals at Carson Valley Medical Center help you find one — call 775-782-1545 or visit cvmchospital.org/doc to get connected with a provider who meets your unique health and insurance needs.
Sources: American Academy of Dermatology; American Cancer Society; National Cancer Institute