Donate |

Mole check

How to spot a suspicious spot

Last updated: July 2011

The key to effectively examining your body for skin cancer is to familiarize yourself with your own skin. "What you are looking for are changes, something that wasn't there before or a mole that appears to be growing or changing color," advises Allan Halpern, M.D., chief of the dermatology service at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Here's what to look for when doing a mole check:

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

BCCs can develop anywhere but most often form on sun-exposed areas—the face, scalp, neck, hands, and arms. They are typically slow-growing and might look like any of the following:

  • A persistent reddish patch of dry skin.
  • A pearl-shaped lump that's skin-colored, pink, red, or brown, often with a depression in the center.
  • A pimple that won't clear.
  • A sore that bleeds, heals, and returns.
  • A scar that feels waxy and might be skin-colored, white, or yellow.
  • A group of shiny pink or red growths that are often scaly and bleed easily.
  • A hard, flat, or sunken growth that might be white or yellow.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

SCCs often appear on sun-exposed skin but can occur elsewhere—inside the mouth, on lips, or genitals. They often look like:

  • A hard, scaly, or crusty reddish bump, patch, or pearl-shaped growth.
  • An open sore that itches and bleeds, and might heal and return.
  • A scaly patch on the lip that can thicken.

Melanoma

Healthy moles are typically small, one color, circular or oval, and have a well-defined border. Suspicious moles usually have one or more of the distinctive A, B, C, D, E characteristics summarized below. Some melanomas can also appear as a brown or black streak under the fingernails or look like a bruise that won't heal. A melanoma will sometimes itch, bleed, or feel painful.

  • Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other.
  • Border: An irregular or poorly defined border.
  • Color: Varies from one area to another, often in shades of tan, black, and brown. Is sometimes white, red, or blue.
  • Diameter: Typically greater than the size of a pencil eraser, but they can be smaller.
  • Evolving: A mole or lesion that looks unlike others or is changing in color, shape, or size.
   

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters!
Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Latest From Consumer Reports

Cell phones & services Cats Electronics Smart phones Electronics & computers Apple Phones & mobile devices
SMART PHONE REVIEWS
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus gain on top Android modelsVideo But Apple's new phones can't match some Samsung and LG features.
HYBRID/EV REVIEWS
Driving the future with the BMW i8 plug-in hybridVideo It delivers stunning supercar looks with an almost Prius-like mission.
REFRIGERATOR REVIEWS
Kitchens: Best refrigerators for under $1,000Video These models combine value and performance and won't break the budget.
INVESTING CENTER
7 questions you need to ask your financial adviserVideo The answers could help you get a lot more out of your money.
WINDOW REVIEWS
How to choose the best replacement windowsVideo Find the right windows for your home and climate—and your budget.
SPACE HEATER REVIEWS
7 ways to cut your heating costs this winterVideo Fuel prices are on the rise. Use our advice to keep your utility bills in check.

Connect

and safety with
subscribers and fans

Follow us on:

Cars

Cars New Car Price Report
Find out what the dealers don't want you to know! Get dealer pricing information on a new car with the New Car Price Report.

Order Your Report

Mobile

Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more