Skin Cancer Basics

7 Ways to Tell If a Mole Is Cancerous

Jackie Ho Jun 19th, 2014 (updated Jul 7th, 2016)
1 of 8
Next
1 of 8

As a preventive measure against developing melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—you should pay close attention to your skin. In particular, if you have a mole—or something on your skin that may resemble a mole—you should  make note of the following characteristics. If you notice any changes, be sure to report them to your doctor.

2 of 8
Color
Color

The sun can make moles darker, but a drastic change in color may be a reason for concern. You should also take notice if a mole is inconsistent in color, such as black in the middle with pink around the outside.

3 of 8
Symmetry
Symmetry

Moles are usually symmetrical so if you notice any kind of changes—such as growth in size or if it becomes asymmetrical—you should talk to your doctor.

4 of 8
Shape
Shape

Moles are usually either circular or ovular. Cancerous moles tend to have irregular borders and a relatively ragged shape.

5 of 8
Pain level
Pain level

Moles typically don’t result in any pain. One sign of melanoma, however, is a mole that is bleeding, oozing, itching or tender to the touch.

6 of 8
Stage of development
Stage of development

Moles can develop at any age and the appearance of a new one isn't always reason to worry. But pay attention to any new spots on your skin and check with your dermatologist if a new spot doesn’t fit the mole guidelines.

7 of 8
Healing ability
Healing ability

If you have a sore on your skin that won’t heal, even after cleaning and treating it, you should talk to your doctor. Sores that don’t heal may be a sign of cancer or a sign that you’re at high risk of cancer.

8 of 8
Texture
Texture

Moles usually feel smooth in texture. If your mole turns rough, scaly, crusty or develops a scab, it may potentially be cancerous, and you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible.