What Does a Cancerous Mole Look and Feel Like: Signs and Symptoms to Watch Out For

Have you ever noticed a mole on your body that seems a little off? Maybe it’s asymmetrical, or the color is more varied than you remember. Everyone has moles, and while they’re usually nothing to worry about, changes in their appearance or texture could be a sign of skin cancer. So, what does a cancerous mole look and feel like?

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and it can develop anywhere on your body. Most moles are harmless, but it’s important to keep an eye on any changes over time. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, warning signs of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – include asymmetry, uneven or ragged borders, varied color, and a large size (typically larger than a pencil eraser).

So, how can you tell if a mole is cancerous? It’s important to regularly check your skin for changes and talk to a dermatologist if anything seems suspicious. Remember, skin cancer is highly treatable when detected early, so don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment if you’re concerned. Keep reading to learn more about what to look for and how to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

The Basics of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide, with more than 3 million people diagnosed annually. It occurs when skin cells undergo abnormal changes and grow uncontrollably. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are less aggressive than melanoma, which can spread quickly and become life-threatening if left untreated.

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): This is the most common type of skin cancer accounting for nearly 80% of all diagnoses. It usually appears on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, and ears. A BCC can appear as a flat, pale, or waxy bump, a flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion, or a pinkish growth with an elevated border and crusted indentation in the center.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): SCC is less common than BCC but can still occur in areas of the body that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, and hands. SCC can look like a scaly patch or lump that may be crusty or bleed. It is usually red but can also be pink, brown, black, or have multiple colors.
  • Melanoma: This is the most deadly type of skin cancer and is responsible for the majority of skin cancer-related deaths. Melanoma develops in the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. It can occur anywhere on the body and can look like a mole or a dark spot that changes in size, color, or shape. Other signs include an irregular border, uneven color, and a diameter larger than a pencil eraser. Melanoma can also itch, bleed, or become painful.

If you notice any unusual changes in your skin, such as new growths, sores that won’t heal, or changes in the appearance of moles, it’s important to get them checked by a dermatologist. Early detection is key to successful treatment and a better chance of survival.

Understanding Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the cells that produce pigment – melanocytes. It is the deadliest form of skin cancer and can quickly spread to other parts of the body if not detected early and treated properly. One of the warning signs of melanoma is the appearance of an unusual mole. Here is what you need to know about what a cancerous mole looks and feels like:

What Does a Cancerous Mole Look and Feel Like?

  • A cancerous mole usually has an irregular or asymmetrical shape instead of being round or oval. One half of the mole may not match the other half, or the border may have scalloped or poorly defined edges.
  • The color of a cancerous mole can be uneven and include shades of black, brown, or tan. Some melanomas may also become red, white, or blue.
  • The size of a cancerous mole is usually larger than a pencil eraser, but it can also be smaller.
  • A cancerous mole may also have changes in texture, such as becoming rough, bumpy, or scaly, or have an elevation above the skin’s surface.

If you notice any of the above characteristics in a mole, it is essential to see a dermatologist for evaluation. Remember, not all melanomas look the same, so do not rely solely on this list. Some may also not follow any visible pattern and may grow rapidly or bleed. It is crucial to understand to assess all moles regularly, creating a habit of skin surveillance.

When to Worry About a Mole?

Although most moles are usually noncancerous, experts recommend keeping an eye on their moles’ appearance throughout life, starting in childhood. A dermatologist should evaluate any new or changing mole or skin lesion. It is essential to consult with your dermatologist if you find any mole with the ABCDEs of moles, as previously mentioned, to ensure its safety. It is crucial to detect and treat melanoma before it becomes more aggressive, and it spreads to other parts of the body.


Melanoma is a highly dangerous form of skin cancer that can develop anywhere on the body, even in areas that do not get exposed to the sun. Checking your skin regularly is the first line of defense when it comes to melanoma. Stay alert and pay attention to any changes in moles, skin spots, or other marks, and talk to a dermatologist when you notice anything unusual. Early detection and treatment are key to successfully treating melanoma and preventing its spread.

ABCDEs of moles: What to look for:
A Asymmetry – one half looks different from the other half
B Border – irregular or poorly defined
C Color – changes in color or different colors within one mole
D Diameter – larger than the size of a pencil eraser
E Evolving – any changes in size, shape, color, or elevation

Identifying Skin Lesions

Identifying a cancerous mole is an important step in skin cancer prevention. While not all moles are cancerous, it is important to keep an eye on any changes in size, shape, or color. Here are some things to look for when identifying skin lesions:

  • Asymmetry: A cancerous mole is often irregular or asymmetrical in shape.
  • Border: A mole with irregular borders or edges can be a sign of skin cancer.
  • Color: Changes in mole color, especially if they are not uniform in color, can be worrisome.
  • Diameter: Moles larger than a pencil eraser should be checked by a dermatologist.
  • Evolving: Moles that change in size, shape, or color should be evaluated by a medical professional.

If you notice any of these signs, or if you have a family history of skin cancer, you should make an appointment with a dermatologist. They can perform a skin exam, take a biopsy if necessary, and help you develop a plan for preventing skin cancer in the future.

In addition to identifying skin lesions, it is important to protect your skin from the sun. This can be done by wearing protective clothing, applying sunscreen, and avoiding the sun during peak hours. By taking these steps, you can lower your risk of developing skin cancer and protect the health of your skin.

Type of skin cancer Description
Basal cell carcinoma The most common form of skin cancer, usually appears as a small, shiny bump or a red, scaly patch.
Squamous cell carcinoma Usually appears as a red, scaly patch or a raised, wart-like bump.
Melanoma The most dangerous form of skin cancer, usually appears as a dark spot or a mole that changes in size, shape, or color.

Remember, early detection is key when it comes to skin cancer. By being aware of the signs of skin cancer and taking steps to protect your skin, you can reduce your risk of developing this disease.

Skin Self-Examination Practices

Skin self-examination is a vital practice that could help you detect cancerous moles early. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that individuals perform self-examinations at least once a month. The self-examination should include all areas of the skin, including the scalp, between the fingers and toes, the genitals, and the soles of the feet.

  • Start by looking at all the moles on your skin using a mirror. Also, check the hard-to-see areas like your back.
  • Use a hand-held mirror to examine areas like the scalp, the back of the neck, and the ears.
  • Pay attention to the size, shape, color, and texture of your moles. It’s crucial to look for any changes in these features, which could indicate that a mole is cancerous.

If you identify something unusual, make an appointment with your dermatologist for further examination. Your dermatologist may perform a biopsy by removing a part of the mole for lab testing.

There are useful tools for monitoring your moles; one example is the “ABCDE” rule, an acronym for:

Letter What It Stands For
A Asymmetrical mole
B Border irregularity
C Color that is not consistent in a mole
D Diameter that is greater than 6 mm
E Evolving or changing mole

Practicing skin self-examination and following the ABCDE rule can help you detect cancerous moles early, making them easier to treat and increasing your chances of survival. If you’re unsure about any changes or features in a mole, consult your dermatologist right away – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Different Approaches to Skin Cancer Treatment

When it comes to skin cancer treatment, there are a variety of approaches that doctors may take depending on the type and severity of the cancer. In some cases, a combination of approaches may be used for the most effective treatment. Here are some of the different approaches to skin cancer treatment:

  • Surgery – This is the most common treatment for skin cancer, especially for non-melanoma skin cancers. In some cases, the entire cancerous mole or lesion may be removed, while in other cases only a portion of it may be removed. Mohs surgery is a specialized technique sometimes used for certain types of skin cancer that involves removing thin layers of skin until no cancer cells remain.
  • Radiation therapy – This may be used for certain types of skin cancer, either alone or in combination with surgery. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Topical medications – Some early-stage skin cancers, such as superficial basal cell carcinoma, may be treated with topical medications. These medications are typically applied directly to the skin and work by destroying the cancer cells.
  • Cryotherapy – This involves freezing the cancer cells with liquid nitrogen, which causes them to die and eventually fall off. Cryotherapy may be used for certain types of skin cancer that are very superficial.
  • Chemotherapy – This may be used for advanced cases of skin cancer, such as melanoma, that have spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body, but it may also have side effects like hair loss, nausea, and fatigue.

It’s important to note that not all approaches to skin cancer treatment are appropriate for every patient or every type of skin cancer. The best approach for you will depend on a variety of factors, including the size and location of the cancer, your overall health and medical history, and your personal preferences and goals for treatment.

If you’re diagnosed with skin cancer, it’s important to work closely with your doctor to determine the best course of action for your individual situation. With early detection and treatment, many cases of skin cancer can be successfully treated. Stay vigilant about checking your skin and report any new or suspicious moles or lesions to your doctor right away.

Treatment Approach Pros Cons
Surgery High cure rate, immediate results, can remove entire cancerous area at once Possible scarring, anesthesia risks, longer recovery time
Radiation Therapy Noninvasive, can treat hard-to-reach areas, no recovery time Possible skin damage, long treatment time, may not be as effective as surgery for certain types of skin cancer
Topical Medications Noninvasive, little to no scarring, may be effective for early-stage skin cancer May not work for all types of skin cancer, may cause skin irritation or other side effects
Cryotherapy Noninvasive, little to no scarring, may be effective for certain types of skin cancer Possible skin damage or discoloration, may require multiple treatments, may not be effective for all types of skin cancer
Chemotherapy May be effective for advanced cases of skin cancer, can treat cancer throughout the body Possible side effects like nausea and fatigue, may not work for all types of skin cancer, can be expensive

How to Manage Skin Cancer Fear

Getting a diagnosis of skin cancer can be frightening. Fear and anxiety are normal reactions to the news that you have a potentially life-threatening disease. However, it is important to remember that skin cancer, if caught early, is usually highly treatable. The key is to educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of skin cancer and take steps to reduce your risk. Here are some tips to help you manage your skin cancer fear:

  • Learn about skin cancer: The more you know about skin cancer and its treatment options, the less anxious you may feel. Read reliable sources of information such as the American Cancer Society website, talk to your doctor and ask questions.
  • Stay positive: Although it can be difficult, try to stay positive. You may have heard stories about people who have successfully beat skin cancer, and you can be one of them too. Believe in your ability to recover and maintain a positive attitude.
  • Stay vigilant: Regular check-ups with your dermatologist are key to catching skin cancer early. Make a habit of doing monthly self-exams as well to catch any new or changing moles.

Another helpful way to manage your skin cancer fear is to know what to watch for when it comes to suspect moles. Here are some guidelines:

A cancerous mole can look and feel different from a non-cancerous one. If you have a mole that changes color, shape, or size, it should be evaluated. In addition, a mole that bleeds or forms a scab, or one that has uneven borders, may be suspicious. Here’s a helpful table to help you understand what to look for:

Types of Skin Cancer Description
Basal cell carcinoma The most common form of skin cancer. It often presents as a small, raised bump that looks like a pimple or a flesh-colored mole.
Squamous cell carcinoma The second most common form of skin cancer. It often presents as a hard, red bump or a scaly patch of skin that may bleed or ulcerate.
Melanoma The deadliest form of skin cancer. It often presents as a mole that changes in color, size, or shape, often with uneven borders, and may itch, bleed, or form a scab.

If you notice any suspicious moles, see a dermatologist immediately. Early detection is key to successful treatment and can help to ease your anxiety about skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Prevention Tips

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the world. It’s caused by the mutation of skin cells, most often as a result of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. While we can’t completely eliminate our risk of developing skin cancer, there are ways to significantly reduce it. Here are some skin cancer prevention tips:

  • Wear protective clothing. Cover your skin with long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat when you’re outside in the sun for an extended period of time. Look for clothing with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) ratings, which indicate how much UV radiation can penetrate the fabric.
  • Use sunscreen. Apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to all exposed skin 15 minutes before going outside, and reapply at least every two hours (more often if you’re swimming or sweating). Look for broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Avoid peak sun hours. Stay out of the sun when its rays are strongest, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you must be outside during these hours, seek shade under trees, umbrellas, or other coverings.

What Does a Cancerous Mole Look and Feel Like?

Moles are common and usually harmless, but some can turn into malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Knowing how to spot a cancerous mole can help you catch it early and get treatment before it spreads. Here are some signs to watch for:

One way to remember what to look for is by using the acronym ABCDE:

Asymmetry – One half of the mole looks different from the other half.

Border – The edges of the mole are irregular, blurred, or jagged.

Color – The mole has multiple colors or shades, such as black, brown, tan, red, blue, or white.

Diameter – The mole is larger than a pencil eraser (about 6 mm).

Evolving – The mole is changing in size, shape, color, or texture, or new symptoms are developing, such as bleeding, itching, or crusting.

Type Appearance Symptoms
Basal cell carcinoma Shiny, pearly, or waxy bump; pink or flesh-colored; may have blood vessels or ulceration Slow-growing; may bleed, scab, or crust; may heal and return
Squamous cell carcinoma Thick, rough, scaly bump; red or brown; may have crust or bleeding; may resemble a wart Can grow quickly; can invade nearby tissues and organs; can spread to lymph nodes
Malignant melanoma Irregularly shaped mole; large, dark, or multicolored; may have uneven border or surface Fast-growing; can spread to other parts of the body, including organs

If you have a mole that exhibits any of the ABCDE signs or other unusual features, see a dermatologist for a skin cancer screening. The doctor may perform a biopsy, which involves removing a sample of the tissue to test for cancer cells.

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to skin cancer. By following these skin cancer prevention tips and staying aware of changes in your skin, you can reduce your risk of developing this dangerous disease.

FAQs: What Does a Cancerous Mole Look and Feel Like?

1. What causes a mole to become cancerous?

In most cases, moles that become cancerous are due to overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds. Genetics can also play a role in the development of cancerous moles.

2. What does a cancerous mole look like?

Generally, a cancerous mole will have irregular borders, be larger than a pencil eraser, and have color variations, such as different shades of brown, black, or red.

3. Does a cancerous mole bleed?

Yes, a cancerous mole may bleed or ooze, especially if it’s scratched or bumped.

4. What does a cancerous mole feel like?

A cancerous mole may feel rough or scaly, and it may itch or feel tender to the touch. It may also feel like a lump or bump under the skin.

5. Can a cancerous mole be painful?

In some cases, a cancerous mole may be painful or sensitive to the touch, especially if it’s located in an area that’s frequently rubbed or bumped.

6. How can I tell if my mole is cancerous?

If you notice any changes in your mole’s size, color, shape, or texture, or if it begins to bleed or itch, it’s essential to get it checked out by a doctor or dermatologist.

7. What should I do if I’m concerned about a mole?

If you’re worried about a mole, schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional or dermatologist. They can examine your mole and determine if any further testing or treatment is necessary.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading this guide on what a cancerous mole can look and feel like. Remember, it’s essential to be aware of any changes in your moles and to seek medical attention if you have any concerns. Take care of your skin and stay safe in the sun! Don’t hesitate to visit again for more informative reads.