What does skin cancer look like?



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More Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined, according to the American Cancer Society . The good news? Skin cancers, including melanomas (the deadliest type of skin cancer), are usually curable if they are detected and removed early. That's why it's important not only to see a dermatologist for an annual skin exam, but also to have a head-to-toe exam every month.

But, what exactly should you be looking for? Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas (the most common types of skin cancer) can cause itching, bleeding, waxy, irregular, or bright. However, the signs of melanoma are a little different. To identify potentially worrisome moles, you will want to use the ABCDE system.

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This basal cell carcinoma has an area similar to a waxy scar, as well as in an open and crusty sore.

Getty Images

ABCDE means "asymmetric," "border," "color," "diameter," and "evolving," which are the characteristics that can differentiate benign from cancerous moles. Examples of each of these characteristics are illustrated in the photos below. The images are a bit graphic, but getting acquainted with the signs of melanoma could save your life.

⚠️ If you notice peeling, redness or a change in the size, shape or color of a mole, call your doctor ⚠ ️

  mole asymmetry

Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD

A symmetric moles

The healthy mbad (left) has symmetrical edges, which means that if you drew a line through the center of the mbad, its left and right halves would be more or less the same, says Dr. Friedman Compare that with the asymmetric melanoma on the right. "It would be almost impossible to draw a line through this fool and get equal halves," says Dr. Friedman. The different colors and the irregular edge of this mole are also indicative of skin cancer, he says.

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			<span clbad= Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD

Irregular B order moles

While the healthy mole (left) has a fairly uniform border – at least as far as the molar borders are concerned – the Lunar on the right does not have a real perimeter, says Dr. Friedman. "The lesion is placed randomly on the skin, the edge is not congruent or well defined, and there is a mixture of colors," he says, explaining the worrying features of the mole.


  loss of Mole color

Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD

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Desigual C smell moles

Again, beginning with the Healthy mole on the left, observe the consistent color pattern. While there is a slightly lighter halo on the skin around the mole, the mole itself has the same shade of brown. While the other cancerous moles shown above have revealed how the color of a cancerous mole can be irregular or inconsistent, Dr. Friedman says the lack of color is also a red flag. (See the mole on the right.) "Most badume that melanoma has to be jet black, but a loss of color can be just as damning," he says.


  mole with large diameter

Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD

Large D iameter

If the mole or spot is larger than a pea, that is another indication of skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention (CDC). The mole on the right is larger than a pea, and therefore fits the "D" criterion, says Dr. Friedman. The inconsistent edge and color, especially the pink / white portion in the left midsection of the mole, are also telltale signs of cancer, he says.

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			<span clbad= Getty Images

Ugly Ducklings

Along with the ABCDEs, Friedman also recommends looking closely at the moles or moles of the "ugly duckling". These are the weirdos, he says, or those moles that look different from everyone else. You probably have some randos that do not look like all their mole brothers and sisters. So do not be scared. But you will want to monitor these to see the changes, as well as the other symptoms described above. If in doubt, consult a specialist, says Dr. Friedman.

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