Most people have moles, and almost all of them are harmless. A normal mole is usually an evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot on the skin. It can be either flat or raised. It can be round or oval. They are usually smaller than the width of a pencil eraser.
A mole can be present at birth, or it can appear during childhood or young adulthood. Get any new moles checked out. Moles usually stay the same size, shape, and color for many years. Some may even fade away. Any changes in a mole – such as in its size, shape, or color – may mean a melanoma is developing.
See below for two ways to tell a normal mole from a mole that may be cancer.
The ABCDE rule is one way to help recognize the typical signs of melanoma. Tell your doctor about spots with any of the following features:
|A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
|B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
|C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
|D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
|E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Ugly Duckling Rule
Melanomas look different than other moles. The “ugly duckling” rule can help you find them, especially when you have lots of moles or freckles. Usually, normal moles resemble each other, like siblings, while the potential melanoma looks or feels different than the others – the “ugly duckling”.
Over time, an ugly duckling mole may change differently than your other moles.
Get any “ugly duckling” moles checked by a specialist, such as a dermatologist, dermatology PA-C (certified physician assistant) or nurse practitioner.