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4 Signs That Your Mole Is Cancerous

Decode dangerous skin spots with these guidelines from top dermatologists

It isn’t easy to tell which marks on your skin are harmless, and which are suspicious.

But don’t sit and wonder: Rates of melanoma have doubled over the past three decades, making it the most common type of skin cancer in the U.S, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


This is a good surveillance method, but it isn’t foolproof, says Clifford Perlis, M.D., a dermatologist at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

“While many melanomas meet the ABCDE criteria, there are some that don’t,” he says. “And even within it, there are outliers. For instance, many cases of melanoma can be smaller than a pencil eraser.”

(These eye-popping pictures show you exactly What Skin Cancer Looks Like.)

Obviously you should see a dermatologist for an annual skin screening, but you also need to be vigilant on your own. Here’s how to watch out for your own skin.

It Could Be Melanoma If:

It’s new. “After your mid-30s, you shouldn’t be growing new moles,” Dr. Perlis says. See a fresh spot? Point it out to your doctor. Most melanomas arise from previously normal skin, while only 28 percent of cases develop from an existing mole, according to a new study from Harvard Medical School.

Related: Top 10 Cancer Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

Best case: It’s just a sunspot or liver spot. These small, flat, light brown patches look like moles and tend to pop


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