The Facts about Monitoring Your Moles for Melanoma: Q&A with Dr. Sangeeta Patil

Melanoma or skin cancer is the sixth most common cancer in both males and females. And it is important to detect it early, when removal of the melanoma will cure the cancer without further concern.

Here board certified internal medicine physician Dr. Sangeeta Patil overviews two common ways you can be on the lookout for possible melanoma.

What is the standard for knowing if a mole could be melanoma?

One standard measure is by looking at the “ABCDE” features of a mole. If your mole fits any of this criteria, you could have melanoma and should seek help of your doctor without delay.

  • Asymmetry (A)
  • Border irregularity (B)
  • Color variability (C)
  • Diameter greater than 6 mm (D)
  • Evolution or change (E).

If a mole just looks different than your others, is that a concern?

Your "normal" moles resemble each other, like family members. If you have a mole that catches your eye as looking or feeling different, or if that mole changes differently than your others, then that mole is suspicious. I call them “ugly duckling” moles, and recommend that patients that find them should come see me so that we can proactively address any melanoma concerns.

How do you know if a mole is different?

Compare your moles to surrounding moles, searching for any “ugly ducklings.” If a mole is larger and darker than the surrounding moles or small and red in the background of multiple large dark moles, make an appointment with your doctor right away.

How about if you just don’t have many moles to begin with?

If you have very few or no other moles, any changing lesion should be considered a suspicious mole. If you are concerned about a specific lesion, sensations related to the lesion or if it just "feels different,” see your doctor.

What should I do to monitor my moles?

I recommend that patients monitor moles by taking photos. It’s easy and it helps you note any changes. Melanoma generally change at a different rate or with a different pattern than other moles. If you see any “ugly ducklings” or a mole that appears to follow the ABCDEs, make an appointment with your doctor without delay. It’s always better to be safe.