Mole or Melanoma, can you tell the difference?

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Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2013 10:43 am | Updated: 11:19 am, Thu Aug 8, 2013.

With record high temps across the country more of us are exposing more of ourselves to the suns harmful rays.

Keeping the sunscreen close is smart, but dermatologists say it is not enough. They recommend, "knowing" your skin, but, what does that mean and how can it be a life-saving technique?

The average person has more than 100 moles on their body, how can you tell the difference between a harmless mole and cancerous Melanoma?

Is it a mole or melanoma? here's how to tell the difference

Summer is in full swing and hopefully you have been using your sunscreen when you are headed to the beach. Just using sunscreen alone isn’t enough. You also need to know the moles on your body.

But how can you "know" your skin? When is a mole just a mole, and when is it a sign of something worse? Dermatologists say it is never too late to start being skin-aware.

If you or a close relative have pronounced moles, you should examine your body regularly says Dr. Christopher Nelson a board certified dermatologist at Nelson Dermatology in St. Petersburg.

“Most moles and skin markings are non-cancerous, but the moles that are of greater medical concern first appear in adulthood and look different than other existing moles,” Dr. Nelson says.

Moles that bleed, ooze, itch, appear scaly, or become tender or painful should be checked by a dermatologist immediately.

Here's what to look for

Examine your skin with a full-length mirror. Pay close attention to areas of your skin that are often exposed to the sun, such as the hands, arms, chest and head.

The following ABCDE's are important signs of moles that could be skin cancer. If a mole displays any of the signs listed below, have it checked immediately by a dermatologist:

· Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other half

· Border: The border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular

· Color: The mole has different colors or it has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white or red

· Diameter: The diameter of the mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil

· Evolving: The mole appears different from others and/or changing in size, color, shape

These are your personal risk factors.

“You should always be wary of a new mole,” Dr. Nelson says. “If you have had severe sunburns or have had a close relative with skin cancer, you are especially at risk,” he says.

The risk of skin cancer is increased in those who have fair skin, high density of freckles, or red hair as well. Mole related risk factors for developing skin cancer include: more than 50 moles or the presence of more than five atypical moles (moles with irregular shape and color).

“Do the best you can to keep track of your skin, and head to your specialist if you see something that is new, changing, or makes you uneasy,” Dr. Nelson says.

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