The skin is the body’s largest organ, and it is important to be vigilant about preventing skin cancer. This is crucial for those with fair skin, who have a large number of moles or have a family history of skin cancer. Using sunscreen and limiting time in the sun are excellent preventative measures, along with examining moles on a regular basis.

How to Examine Moles

It is recommended to examine moles at least once each month. This should take place after a shower or bath, in front of a full-length mirror. A second person should be available to help with the moles that are difficult to see. All areas of the body should be carefully checked from top to bottom, including the scalp, the neck, between the fingers and toes, the back of the knees, the groin and the soles of the feet. It can be helpful to take photos of the moles to keep track of them. Any suspicious changes in moles, such as color, itchiness, bleeding, pain or scaliness should be immediately reported to a doctor.

What to Look For

Moles should be examined using the ABCDE system. Any mole that shows changes according to the list below should be looked at by a dermatologist.

Asymmetry. One side of a mole does not match the other side.

Border. The mole border is irregular or has a blurry or jagged edge.

Color. The mole is not a uniform color and displays shades of tan, red, black, brown, blue or white.

Diameter. A mole should always be smaller than the eraser on a pencil.

Elevation. The mole has become more raised up from the surrounding skin.

Moles that develop after age 20 should always be considered suspicious. While most of these moles are benign, there is a small chance they could be melanoma. A dermatologist can perfom a biopsy to determine if there is cancer and how it should be treated. It should be noted that moles can develop in other uncommon locations and if there is a history of skin cancer in the family, yearly checkups with a gynecologist, dentist and eye doctor are vital for examining those areas.

Taking a little time to look closely at moles each month pays off with good health.