Is it Skin Cancer or Just a Mole?Posted by Medicare Made Clear
Have you ever noticed a strange spot on your skin and wondered if you should get it checked out? If you have a strange lump, bump, spot or other mark on your skin, it could be a normal or pre-cancerous growth or skin cancer.
Examples of Growths
Actinic Keratosis (AK). Actinic keratosis affects more than 58 million Americans.1 AK is usually caused by too much sun exposure. AK typically appears as a scaly, crusty spot that is either pinkish-red or flesh colored and less than ¼ inch across. Sometimes, AK can turn into squamous cell cancer. AK is normally found on the face, ears, backs of the hands, and arms. It can also be found on other sun-exposed areas of skin.
Moles. Normal moles are evenly-colored brown, tan or black spots on the skin. They are usually the size of a pencil eraser or smaller. Moles usually stay the same size, shape and color for many years. If a mole changes size, shape or color, it may be a sign melanoma is developing.
Examples of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.2 Many skin cancers can be treated effectively if they are found early.2 It’s important to tell your doctor about any new growths, spots, bumps, patches, or sores that don’t heal after several weeks or that heal and then come back later.
Basal cell carcinoma is most often found on areas of the body that get a lot of sun exposure, like the head and neck. It can also develop anywhere on the body. About 8 out of 10 skin cancers are basal cell cancers.2 Basal cell carcinoma can take on many looks. One basal cell cancer may be a flat, firm, pale area that looks like a scar. Another cancer may be a raised, reddish patch that itches. Yet another may be a shiny, pearly bump with blue, brown or black areas.
Squamous cell cancers are also often found on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun. This type of cancer may appear as a rough or scaly red patch that bleeds, a raised bump, or an oozing, open sore that won’t heal.
Melanoma – According to the American Cancer Association, the ABCDE rule is a guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:3
- 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.
Since some melanomas do not fit the ABCDE rules it’s important to tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on the skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.3
Checking yourself for signs of skin cancer should be a part of your regular home health routine. Because skin cancer is sometimes found in hard-to-see places, like on the back or on the top of the head, you may want a doctor to perform a screening for you. Schedule your annual Wellness Visit and talk to your doctor about your skin cancer risk factors and screening options. Medicare Part B covers your Wellness Visit at no additional cost to you if the doctor or other qualified health care provider accepts your plan.
For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
Skin Cancer Image Gallery: American Cancer Society
Medicare.gov: Visit the official U.S. government site for Medicare.
Skin Cancer Gallery, Actinic Keratoses, American Cancer Society
1 Actinic Keratosis, A Potential PreCancer, Skin Cancer Foundation, April 13, 2015
2 Skin Cancer Gallery, Basal Cell Carcinoma, American Cancer Society, April 10, 2015
3 Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection, American Cancer Society, March 20, 2015