Is an Itchy Mole a Symptom of Skin Cancer?

Is it a Symptom of Skin Cancer?

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Question: I have an itchy mole. Is it a symptom of skin cancer?

Recently, a mole on my arm has been really itchy. Although it isn't a new mole, I have noticed that it has changed and it is no longer flat. Instead, it has started to become raised. Is an itchy mole a symptom of skin cancer?

Answer: Itchy Moles May Be a Cause for Concern

An itchy mole can be a symptom of melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer.

If your mole becomes itchy or it is persistently itchy, you should certainly have it examined by your doctor. If you are due for a regular check-up, that's one more reason to make the appointment. But it's also worth its own appointment to have checked.

However, you have to take into consideration other factors that may be causing your mole to itch. Are you using a new laundry detergent? Do you use a body lotion that contains fragrances or other chemicals that could be irritating the skin? Have you been spritzing yourself with a new cologne, aftershave or body spray? What about sunless tanning products that you recently began to use? Are you being to exposed to any chemicals or spray on the job? Think about what products you use and how they may cause skin irritation.

Check Your Moles: The ABCDE Rule of Skin Cancer Symptoms

A mole that has recently changed in appearance -- such as becoming elevated, in your case -- definitely needs to be evaluated by a dermatologist.

The ABCDE rule of skin cancer states the characteristics of abnormal moles:

  • Asymmetry: Normal moles or freckles are completely symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through a normal spot, you would have two symmetrical halves. In cases of skin cancer, spots will not look the same on both sides.
  • Border: The borders or edges of an irregular mole are uneven, jagged or blurry.
  • Color: Normal moles are uniform in color. Moles are considered to be abnormal when they are more than one color or shade. This can include lightening or darkening of the mole.
  • Diameter: If a mole is larger than a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch, or 6mm), it is considered to be abnormal. This includes moles that do not have any other abnormalities (color, border, asymmetry).
  • Evolution: Evolution refers to any changes in the symmetry, borders, colors, and diameter of an existing mole.

Abnormal Moles Are Not Always Cancerous

You should know that not all abnormal moles are cancerous. If you do have an abnormal mole, it is very important to have it checked out by a dermatologist. An untrained eye cannot determine if a mole is likely to be cancerous or not. It is important for you to check your skin monthly and have a yearly clinical skin exam by a doctor.

During a clinical skin exam, a doctor visually examines the skin to look for any new developments or changes to existing moles or spots. Remember, if you find anything abnormal, report it to your doctor as soon as possible.

Do not wait for your yearly exam.

Sources:

Skin Cancer Symptoms. What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer. National Cancer Institute. October 2010.

Common Moles, Dysplastic Nevi, and Risk of Melanoma. National Cancer Institute, Updated November 1, 2011.

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