Skip to main content
person with fair skin and lots of freckles and moles
By In-house Team, Circle Health Group

What does a cancerous mole look like?

We look at what a cancerous mole looks like. You'll learn about the characteristics of moles, their common locations, and the signs that might indicate malignancy. We aim to equip you with the knowledge to prioritise your skin health and recognise when to seek medical advice

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and taking care of it goes beyond the realms of beauty and aesthetics. Being vigilant about skin health is essential because, despite its protective exterior, it can sometimes harbour potentially harmful conditions. With the increasing prevalence of skin cancer worldwide, there's a growing need to be proactive in recognising its signs.

One such sign, often overlooked or misunderstood, is the appearance of moles. While most moles are harmless, understanding what a cancerous mole looks like and recognising it early can play a pivotal role in ensuring your well-being.

Understanding moles and their differences

Moles are a common part of our skin's landscape. But what exactly are they, and why do they appear where they do?

What is a mole?

A mole is a small, usually brownish spot or growth that appears on your skin due to a cluster of pigment cells. They can be present at birth or develop over time, usually in response to sun exposure. Most moles are benign, meaning they're non-cancerous and pose no threat. However, with time and other factors, some moles can undergo changes that might make them a concern.

Where are moles often found?

Moles can show up anywhere on the skin. From the face and arms to the legs and back – no region is truly exempt. While many of us expect moles to appear on sun-exposed areas, they can also emerge in more unexpected areas of the body. Yes, even the soles of the feet, beneath the nails, or in the scalp hidden under your hair. It's this unpredictable nature that makes regular skin checks so essential.

Let’s discuss the characteristics that differentiate a typical mole from a potentially cancerous one and provide guidance on when and how to seek a professional opinion. With this knowledge in hand, you'll be better positioned to take proactive steps towards your skin health.

Evolution... is arguably the most important aspect. Any change in size, shape, or colour, or any new symptom like bleeding, should be a red flag.

What does a cancerous mole look like?

When it comes to spotting a potentially cancerous mole, or melanoma, early detection can make all the difference. But how do you differentiate between a benign mole and a malignant one? Here’s a straightforward guide to help you:

The ABCDE of melanoma

These are the five key characteristics to watch out for:

A (Asymmetry)

Healthy moles typically have symmetrical shapes. If you were to draw a line through the middle of the mole, both halves should match. A mole that has uneven halves might be a cause for concern.

B (Border)

Look for moles with jagged, irregular, or blurred borders. Regular moles usually have smoother and more defined edges.

C (Colour)

A benign mole will usually be a single shade of brown. However, if you notice a mole with varying shades of brown, black, blue, or even red, it's time to be vigilant.

D (Diameter)

Pay attention to the size. Moles larger than the size of a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch) are worth monitoring, although some melanomas can be smaller.

E (Evolution)

This is arguably the most important aspect. Any change in size, shape, or colour, or any new symptom like bleeding, should be a red flag.

Other warning signs to look out for with moles

While the ABCDE guideline is a great starting point, there are other signs to be aware of:

  • Moles that become itchy or cause pain
  • Moles that start to bleed or ooze
  • Appearance of new moles during adulthood
  • Rapid, noticeable changes in an existing mole over a short span

Why you should get suspicious moles checked

Skin health is not to be taken lightly. Early detection is a game-changer when it comes to skin cancers like melanoma. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer notorious for its ability to spread to other parts of the body if not caught in time.

It's crucial to remember that while many melanomas do exhibit the typical signs mentioned above, some might not. There are instances where melanomas present subtly, reinforcing the importance of professional skin exams. Melanoma can be missed during regular checks only because it appears slightly 'off', without the classic ABCDE signs – so care and attention are paramount.

Self-examination and professional screening for moles

Knowledge is power. And now that you're armed with the basics, it's essential to be proactive.

Self-checks at home

Setting a monthly routine can be literally life-saving:

  • Use mirrors to thoroughly inspect all areas of the body, not forgetting hidden places like between the toes or the undersides of your arms
  • Keep a diary or use apps to document moles, noting down their size, colour, and location. Regularly compare notes to identify any change

Dermatologist visits

Professional expertise can be invaluable:

  • Schedule regular visits to a dermatologist, especially if you have a family history of skin cancer or many moles
  • During a skin exam, the dermatologist will review your entire body, making note of moles and their appearance. Sometimes, they might use a dermatoscope – a tool that offers a magnified view of the skin's surface

It's crucial to remember that while self-checks are beneficial, they don't replace the need for professional screenings. When in doubt, always seek an expert opinion

By being proactive and vigilant about mole checks, you're taking a significant step in ensuring your overall skin health. In the upcoming sections, we will discuss actionable steps to take if you're concerned about a mole and provide insights on early detection benefits.

Early detection often leads to simpler treatments and significantly better outcomes.

Take action with moles that look ‘off’

The complexities of our bodies often mean that subtle changes might go unnoticed. However, when it comes to matters of the skin, especially moles, any hint of doubt should be met with immediate action. The mantra to remember is simple: When in doubt, get it checked out.

Don't wait, especially if something seems ‘off’ with a mole or if you notice signs indicative of melanoma. The skin might be our body's largest organ, but its issues, especially melanoma, don't always present with grand symptoms. Sometimes, the subtlest changes can be the most alarming. The silver lining? Early detection often leads to simpler treatments and significantly better outcomes.

Don’t wait to get your moles checked

We cannot stress enough the importance of recognising the characteristics of cancerous moles. Being proactive about our skin health is not just a monthly routine; it's a lifelong commitment that can potentially save lives.

We hope we’ve provided some guidance on understanding moles and their variability to recognising the signs of melanoma. It's clear that knowledge, vigilance, and prompt action are our best defence against potential threats to our skin health. Remember, self-checks are invaluable, but they are only a part of the equation. Always consult with medical specialists regarding any concerns, and lean on their expertise to guide you.

Your skin health is paramount, and at Circle Health Group, we're here to support you every step of the way. If you've noticed changes in your moles or just need an expert's reassurance, don't take chances.

Is it time for a professional dermatologist to assess your moles? Book an appointment online today, or give us a call directly, and we'll ensure you connect with the right skin specialist tailored to your needs. Your peace of mind and well-being are our utmost priority.

More articles

View all

How do I book an appointment?

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on this subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Circle Hospital.