According to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Many people expose themselves to the sun without adequate protection, and this puts them in more danger than they realize.

Luckily, you can spot signs of skin cancer on your own, which means you may be able to treat it before it becomes too dangerous. 

We’re here to talk about identifying melanoma sun spots on the skin and what to do once you’ve spotted them. Read on to learn more. 

Identifying Melanoma Sun Spots on the Skin

So how do you identify potential melanoma on your skin? Skin cancer is serious, and it’s one of the malignant cancers you can see with your own eyes, making it far easier to catch than other types of cancer. 

Here’s a quick rundown of what you should do at home to identify these sun spots so you can take your findings to a doctor as soon as possible. 

Do Self-Examinations

While it’s best to visit a dermatologist often, you should also be doing your own self-examination to check for signs of sun damage and skin cancer. Quick removal of skin cancer is essential if you want the best possible outcome, so do yourself a favor.

So how do you do those examinations? 

First, make sure to use adequate lighting. Conduct self-examinations in well-lit conditions to get a clear view of your skin. Don’t settle for dim, warm lighting when it comes to something this serious. 

You need to examine all areas of your body, even if you don’t think there could be spots there. Check your entire body, including areas that aren’t exposed to the sun, such as the scalp, between fingers and toes, and the soles of your feet.

Use a small hand-held mirror or ask someone for help to check areas that are difficult to see, such as your back.

Take note of any of your current moles, even if you don’t think they came from sun damage. Be aware of the location, size, color, and characteristics of your existing moles so you can identify potential changes in the future. You can also consider creating a skin map to track the location of moles and any changes over time.

This may seem time-consuming, but it’s worth it. 

ABCDE Skin Cancer Criteria

First, let’s discuss the ABCDE criteria for identifying problematic moles. This is easy to remember, so it’s perfect for first-timers. 

The “A” is for asymmetry. Look for moles or spots where one half does not match the other half. Melanomas are often asymmetrical in shape.

“B” is for border irregularity. Melanomas may have irregular, notched, or blurry borders. Benign moles, on the other hand, tend to have smooth and well-defined borders.

“C” is for color variation. Pay close attention to spots with uneven coloring or multiple colors. Melanomas may display shades of brown, black, blue, red, or white within the same lesion, whereas standard moles tend to be fairly consistent in color with some small variations. 

Next is “D,” for diameter. You want to pay attention to changes in the size of existing moles or the appearance of new spots. Melanomas are often larger than the size of a pencil eraser, but they can be smaller when they first appear (which is the best time to catch them).

“E” is for evolution, otherwise known as changes over time.  Monitor any changes in the size, shape, color, or elevation of moles or spots. Healthy moles may change slightly with age, but they stay consistent. 

Other Potential Signs of Skin Cancer

Not every sign of melanoma fits neatly into the ABCDE criteria. What else should you be looking for when you’re checking your skin for signs of skin cancer?

Look for any elevated lesions on your skin. Melanomas can be elevated from the skin surface. Pay attention to any spots changing in elevation and “popping out” from the rest of your skin. 

If a spot that seemed normal before becomes itchy, painful, or sensitive, it may be a cause for concern. Persistent symptoms should indicate it’s time for a medical evaluation.

Melanomas can sometimes produce smaller spots or lesions around the primary spot. Doctors sometimes call those satellite lesions. If you see any of those lesions, reach out to a doctor! 

A melanoma may have an irregular or bumpy surface texture. Smooth, uniform moles are less likely to be malignant.

What to Do

So you’ve identified a problematic mole. You may not be sure it’s melanoma, but you don’t want to take any risks. What should you do? 

First, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. Dermatologists are trained to identify and diagnose skin cancers. If you don’t know any local dermatologists, your primary care provider may be able to refer you to one within your insurance network or who they’ve worked with in the past. 

Once it’s time for your appointment, the dermatologist will conduct a thorough clinical examination of your skin, including the suspicious spots and other areas. They may use a dermatoscope, a tool that magnifies the skin, to examine the lesion more closely.

If the dermatologist finds a spot that raises concern, they may recommend a biopsy. A biopsy involves removing a small sample of the suspicious tissue for analysis. The results of that analysis will determine whether the lesion is cancerous, the type of cancer, and its stage. 

If the biopsy confirms skin cancer, your dermatologist will discuss treatment options based on the type and stage of the cancer. Treatment options may include surgery, topical treatments, radiation therapy, or, in some cases, systemic medications. Early removal of skin cancer is key.

Catch Melanoma Early

Melanoma sun spots on the skin can be dangerous! It’s best to catch them as early as possible so you can start getting treatment right away. This will increase your chances of curing your skin cancer and staying healthy.

If you’re in need of a dermatologist in Lexington, KY, Central Kentucky Dermatology is here for you. We have some fantastic experts on our team who can help you keep your skin healthy.

Reach out to us for an appointment today.