Not all moles are precancerous and not all moles look like melanoma, skin cancer. If you want to know, “What does a cancerous mole look like?”, then you need to know what normal moles look like first.
The scientific term for moles is nevi. A normal mole is symmetrical. That means that if you folded it in half, the two halves would match, or be very close to matching. The borders of a normal mole are smooth and even all the way around. The color of a normal mole varies. They are black, brown, flesh toned, red, blue and translucent. They usually are uniform in color throughout. Some are flat, some are raised and some moles are almost bulbous and very soft.
Normal moles grow in different layers of the skin and that’s one way to classify them. Those that grow in the epidermis, the outer layer of skin, are junctional nevus. This type of mole is almost flat to the skin, although they may be slightly raised. A second type of mole has cells in both the dermis and epidermis and it’s called a compound nevus. These are more raised than the junctional nevus and have a brown to black color. The third type of mole grows in the dermis, the inner layer of skin. They are brown to flesh tone and often soft and raised to form a small mound or ball on the skin surface.
Some normal moles that look like cancerous moles are blue nevi. The coloring of these moles often gets them confused with cancerous growths.
Most normal moles are smaller than six mm. Very large moles that remain the same throughout your lifetime often aren’t cancerous, but should continuously be checked for changes.
Now that you know what a normal mole looks like, what does a cancerous mole look like? First cancerous moles have irregular edges. There are twists and turns in the boarders that normal moles don’t have. Normal moles are mostly round or oval.
Next, normal moles are symmetrical. Cancerous moles are not. Sometimes a cancerous mole has indentations on one side, but the other is perfectly smooth. There is no way the two sides match.
Cancerous moles tend to have irregular colors. The color is often not consistent throughout the cancerous mole.
Cancerous moles sometimes ulcerate and bleed. One sign that should send you to the doctor immediately is a bleeding mole.
Some moles are atypical, meaning that they don’t fit the pattern for regular moles but are not cancerous. These are dysplastic moles. They sometimes develop into cancer but they aren’t necessarily cancerous. Their borders are irregular, they are asymmetrical and often look like cancerous growths.
If you can remember the first four letters of the alphabet, you’ll know what to look for when you look for a cancerous mole. A means asymmetry, B stands for the borders with irregular edges, C is the lack of uniform color and D is the diameter or size greater than six millimeters. Also, watch for any mole that suddenly develops where there was none before and beware of a mole that bleeds.