Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It can appear suddenly and can evolve from or near an existing mole. It is commonly found on the upper back, torso, lower legs, head, and neck.
The five-year survival rate for patients in the U.S. whose melanoma is detected early is 99%, but almost 20 Americans die every day from melanoma.
Dr. Michael Sotiriou recommends his patients perform their own mole check monthly, especially for individuals at risk for melanoma. However, there are areas where it is difficult to check on your own including the scalp, back, and the genitals. Thus, he recommends an annual mole check where he will visually inspect your skin to identify any potential problems.
What do common moles look like?
Common moles typically look alike. They are brown and uniform in shape and size, usually the size of a pencil eraser or smaller. However, over the years moles can slowly change. This is why the ABCDEs of melanoma were created by the dermatologists at the American Academy of Dermatology. It is designed to help patients evaluate their own moles and know what to look for to spot melanomas early.
The ABCDEs of Melanoma describe the changes in a mole that are of concern:
- A is for Asymmetry:One half of the mole does not match the other half.
- B is for Border irregularity:The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C is for Colorthat varies from one area to another.
- D is for Diameter:While melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
- E is for Evolving:A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color. This is the most concerning sign for melanoma.
What are the risk factors for melanoma?
The incidence of malignant melanoma has risen due in part to an increase in exposure to risk factors primarily ultraviolet radiation from the sun and artificial sources. Intermittent exposure increases the risk of melanoma overall, and exposure during childhood increases a risk later in life.
Other important risk factors include having a fair complexion, blonde or red hair, green or blue eyes, freckles, inability to tan, a family history of melanoma, and a large number of moles. The average number of moles in people with white skin is about 10-40. Having more than 50 moles increases the risk of skin cancer.
What am I looking for when I conduct a self-examination?
Moles that grow rapidly, itch, bleed or change color, or any mole that seems different as compared to your other moles.If you see changes in a mole it is important to contact Salt Lake Dermatology & Aesthetics to have a full body mole check.
Who should have a mole check?
Fair skinned individuals who have a large number of common moles (nevi) and atypical or dysplastic moles (Dysplastic nevi). Dysplastic moles look like normal moles but have some characteristics of melanoma. They are usually larger than common moles and may have an abnormal shape or color and irregular borders.
There is also an inherited condition called Familial atypical multiple mole and melanoma syndrome or Dysplastic Nevus Syndrome. People with these syndromes have a very high lifetime risk of melanoma which is why Dr. Michael Sotiriou asks about your medical and family history and why regular skin exams are so important.
Check your self. When in doubt call Dr. Sotiriou at Salt Lake Dermatology & Aesthetics in Salt Lake City Utah.
At a Glance
Dr. Michael Sotiriou
- Board-certified, Residency-Trained Medical and Cosmetic Dermatologist
- Sub-Specialty Board Certification in Mohs Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery from the American Board of Dermatology
- Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology
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