Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are changes in the way moles look the only way to know if you might have skin cancer?"
I know that you should watch moles to make sure they don't grow or change shape. Is this the only way to be aware if you have skin cancer?
It is true that watching the evolution of moles and other skin lesions over time is a very important way of detecting skin cancer. Physicians often tell their patients about the ABCDE rule to help detect skin cancers (in particular, melanomas, which are the most dangerous kind of skin cancer). A is for Asymmetry (one half of the lesion looks different from the other), B is for irregular Borders, C is for color (melanomas may have dark and uneven colors), D is for Diameter (higher risk of cancer with lesions bigger than 6 mm), and E is Evolution of the lesion over time. Patients at greatest risk for skin cancer are those that have a history of sunburns, those that have very light skin complexion, those that spend a lot of time in the sun, and those with a strong family history of skin cancers. Unfortunately, skin cancer can often be a subtle finding, and for this reason it is crucial to be examined by a dermatologist if you have any concerns at all about your skin.
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