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Published on February 13, 2014

checking moles on arm

Is My Mole OK?

In the dermatology clinic, a very common question from patients is, “How do I know my mole is OK?” In all honesty, this is a very difficult question to answer with a straight-forward response. It takes years of looking at moles and other skin lesions to be able to tell what is harmless and what needs to be removed.

However, there are a few rules you should follow as you evaluate your moles at home.

  • The ABCDEs of Melanoma Rule. This is the most well-known guideline for patients.
    • Asymmetry: If you fold your mole up like a taco-shell and the two sides don’t match, this is considered asymmetry and is a sign of an abnormal mole.
    • Border: The outside borders of a mole should be nice and round, not scalloped like a flower.
    • Color: Moles ideally are one uniform color – not a mix of different colors or shades.
    • Diameter: In general, most cancerous moles (melanomas) are larger than a pencil eraser.
    • Evolution: This is one of the most important rules. If your mole is changing, get it checked out!
  • The Ugly Duckling Rule. Many people have hundreds of moles – and that’s OK! However, if one of your moles sticks out like a sore thumb from all the others, it’s worth getting it checked. This is one reason why a dermatologist will ask to see all your moles when you come in for a skin check – we not only want to look at the mole in question, but we also want to compare that mole to all the other moles on your skin!
  • The Itching or Bleeding Mole Rule. A mole can itch or bleed for a number of reasons – it might have been caught on clothing or scratched in the shower, it might have a mosquito bite nearby, or it might have developed a pimple within it. But sometimes an itchy, bleeding mole is a sign of something worse – maybe even skin cancer – so get these moles checked out.
  • The “It Just Doesn’t Seem Right” Rule. Maybe your mole doesn’t look that bad, doesn’t itch or bleed, and isn’t changing at all - but you just can’t stop wondering if it’s OK. This is a perfectly good reason to get your mole checked. Sometimes patients have an intuition about their bodies that can’t be explained by “Rules.”

The Bottom Line: Pay attention to your skin. If you see a mole that causes you concern, don’t just watch it – get it checked out. You might save your life!

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