When self-checking your skin (or the skin of a loved one), look out for anything NEW, CHANGING, or UNUSUAL on both sun-exposed and sun-protected areas of the body.
Melanomas commonly appear on the trunks of men and the legs of women, but they can occur anywhere — even in places that never see the sun, like on the buttocks, the soles of the feet, and the genital area.4
Other types of skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma most commonly develop on parts of the body that receive high or intermittent sun exposure, such as on the face, scalp, neck, arms, shoulders and back.5
Look out for these 9 common signs of skin cancer when you check your skin:
- You notice a new mole — most moles appear appear during childhood and adolescence, so any new moles that appear if you’re aged over 25 (and especially if you’re aged over 50) could potentially be cancerous and should be checked out, especially if you notice the mole changing – see below.6
- You have a mole that’s increasing in size –moles can grow slowly as you get older, but any rapid or sudden change is something to be concerned about and may indicate the presence of fast-growing melanoma. Moles that are larger than 6 mm in size (the diameter of a pencil eraser) should be checked regularly. Cancerous moles can be smaller, but they don’t usually stay that way and will grow over time.
- You have a mole that’s asymmetricalin shape - most normal, non-cancerous moles tend to appear as a perfect circle — whereas most problem moles are asymmetrical or lop-sided. Asymmetry in moles is one of the ‘red flags’ for skin cancer, so ensure you have any unusually-shaped moles checked by your GP or skin cancer detection service.
- The edge of a mole has become notched or ragged – most normal or common moles tend to have sharp, well-defined bor ders. If your mole looks notched or ragged, or seems to spread or gradually blur into the surrounding skin, it would pay to get it checked. The borders of an atypical (cancerous) mole are often irregular and/or ‘hazy’ — symptoms that become more pronounced as time goes on.
- You have a mole that’s darkening or changing in colour – Most normal moles are tan, brown, or the same colour as your flesh and are also uniform in appearance. One part of the mole isn’t necessarily lighter or darker than any other. If a mole appears to be multicoloured — in that it has areas that are dark brown, blue, black or white, and even red — you should get a second opinion from MoleMap or your GP. This can be a sign of superficial spreading melanoma, the most common form of melanoma.
- A mole is becoming raised or develops a lump within it – this can be a symptom of nodular melanoma, a particularly fast-growing and dangerous form of melanoma. The key giveaway is that it’s raised, often symmetrical, firm to touch, and is changing or growing progressively. Any raised, firm or growing spots should be professionally checked as a precaution.
- The surface of a mole is becoming rough, scaly or ulcerated – small, rough or scaly patches on your skin can be actinic keratosis (solar keratosis) which is generally caused by too much sun, and commonly occurs on the head, neck, or hands, but can be found elsewhere. They can become cancerous over time, so it pays to get these checked regularly for changes. However, if a mole is ulcerated, you should get it checked immediately – it is highly likely to be a melanoma and has a higher risk of spreading than other melanomas.7
- You have a mole that’s itchy, tingling, weeping or bleeding - Most cancerous moles don’t hurt, but there are warning signs, including itchiness, tingling, bleeding or weeping. Just like the rest of the skin on your body, a mole can become itchy, or get injured and bleed as a result of injury – that’s usually nothing to worry about. However, moles that bleed or ooze fluid without being injured may be cause for concern – you should get these checked by experts just as soon as you can.
- You have a mole or spot that look different from the others – the ‘ugly duckling’. Most normal moles on your body will look similar in appearance, while melanomas often stand out like ugly ducklings in comparison. These can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker when compared to surrounding moles – or they may be isolated without any surrounding moles. That’s why it’s important to not only check your moles, but also to compare them – this is a vital part of any professional mole- mapping and monitoring service such as a Full Body MoleMap.
Other helpful guides developed by dermatologists for detecting skin cancer are the ABCDE and EFG rules – you can check them out here. You can also find our helpful guide for self-checking your skin here. And read on for the answers to other frequently asked questions about cancerous moles…