Examining moles is one of the easiest and most common ways to regularly check for skin cancer and other diseases. Most dermatologists agree that it is better to be safe than sorry if you are concerned about any of your moles, because early detection of skin cancer is extremely important for successful treatment. It usually does not take a very long time to have a checkup with a dermatologist for moles that you are worried about. Seeing a dermatologist for moles once a year or once every six months or so as a general checkup can help put your mind at ease and keep you safe. If the dermatologist sees anything suspicious during these checkups, he will often remove the mole and test it.
If you are not concerned about any specific spot that seems suspicious, it will probably suffice to perform self-exams between your regular dermatologist checkups. There are distinct characteristics of melanoma spots that dermatologists often warn patients to look out for. You should see your dermatologist for moles that appear to be changing shape or size over time or ones that exhibit odd colors and irregular borders. Very large moles and ones that itch, hurt, or possibly even bleed should also be looked at by a dermatologist. See your dermatologist for moles that look as if the pigment is running onto the surrounding areas of skin, as this could be another indication that the mole is a melanoma.
You should also look out for discolorations, bumps, markings, and other skin issues that could indicate a disease. This is important because not all occurrences of skin cancer look like regular moles. It might appear as something less commonly associated with skin cancer, such as a scaly rash. Mention any abnormalities to your dermatologist at your regular checkup. If you are especially concerned about one area, consider making another dermatologist appointment sooner just to be safe.
To ensure maximum protection against skin cancer, take further measures beyond simply seeing a dermatologist every six months to one year. Wear sunscreen daily, especially if you have very fair skin and burn easily. In addition to sunscreen, wear a hat with a brim that will cover your face, ears, neck, and shoulders on days that you will be outside for a long period of time. Avoid tanning outside in the sunshine and especially in tanning booths, and instead opt for tanning lotions and other options that do not require exposure to skin-damaging rays.