Skip to navigation Skip to Content

Recognizing skin cancer

​​​​​​​​​​​​​You play a large role in spotting potential skin cancers.

A monthly skin check up is often the first step in identifying potential problem areas.

You may notice that a mole or other skin spot has changed in some way. This is your signal to contact​ your Marshfield Clinic Dermatologist for an expert review.

Recognizing Skin Cancer

Doing monthly skin checkups is the best way to find new marks or skin changes. During your skin checkups, be sure to follow the ABCDEs of skin checks.

This means checking moles or other growths for Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolving (changing). Note, too, any new growths, or, if any of your growths bleed, itch, look different, or are painful.

The ABCDEs of skin checks

Check your moles or growths for signs of melanoma using ABCDE:

  • Asymmetry: the sides of the mole or growth don’t match

  • Border: the edges are ragged, notched, or blurred

  • Color: the color within the mole or growth varies

  • Diameter: the mole or growth is larger than 6 mm (size of a pencil eraser)

  • Evolving: the size, shape, or color of the mole or growth is changing (evolving is not shown below)

Mole with asymmetrical shape. Mole with uneven, blurry borders. Mole with dark and light spots. Mole with 6 mm measurement across diameter.


In addition to the ABCDEs, other warning signs of skin cancer include:

  • A spot or mole that looks different from all other marks on your skin

  • Changes in how an area feels, such as itching, tenderness, or pain

  • Changes in the skin's surface, such as oozing, bleeding, or scaliness

  • A sore that does not heal

  • New swelling or redness beyond the border of a mole

Who’s at risk?

Anyone can get skin cancer. But you are at greater risk if you have:

  • Fair skin, light-colored hair, or light-colored eyes

  • Many moles or abnormal moles on your skin

  • A history of sunburns from sunlight or tanning beds

  • A family history of skin cancer

  • A history of exposure to radiation or chemicals

  • A weakened immune system

Also, a personal history of skin cancer puts you at risk for recurring skin cancer.

How to check your skin

Do your monthly skin checkups in front of a full-length mirror. Check all parts of your body, including your:

  • Head (ears, face, neck, and scalp)

  • Torso (front, back, and sides)

  • Arms (tops, undersides, upper, and lower armpits)

  • Hands (palms, backs, and fingers, including under the nails)

  • Buttocks and genitals

  • Legs (front, back, and sides)

  • Feet (tops, soles, toes, including under the nails, and between toes)

If you have a lot of moles, take digital photos of them each month. Make sure to take photos both up close and from a distance. These can help you see if any moles change over time.

When to seek medical treatment

Most skin changes are not cancer. But if you see any changes in your skin, call your doctor right away. Only he or she can diagnose a problem. If you have skin cancer, seeing your doctor can be the first step toward getting the treatment that could save your life.

Request Appointment

Contact us for care

If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Call: 1-866-520-2510

(Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.)

 Melanoma Screening

How Much Do You Know About Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. Although skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, melanoma cases make up less than 1% of all skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Find out how much you know about melanoma by taking this quiz.

1. What is true about melanoma?
2. Melanoma often develops from which of these skin features?
3. Which of these may be a warning sign of melanoma?
4. Melanoma is most likely to be cured if:
5. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing sunscreen when?
6. Sun protection factor (SPF) measures how a sunscreen is able to protect the skin from which of these?
7. What's an important part of the body to protect with sunscreen?
8. Although melanoma occurs mainly on the skin, where else can it start?