A common screening measure for determining if a mole is skin cancer is if the size is larger than 6 mm in diameter. This corresponds to the size of a pencil eraser.
However, new research has shown that at least in one study 55% of the melanomas were actually smaller than 6 mm in diameter. Although the commonly cited ABCDE (asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolving) guide to determining if a mole is suspicious is helpful, it is imperfect.
Unfortunately, melanoma is actually becoming more common; in fact, according to the National Cancer Institute:
In the United States … the percentage of people who develop melanoma has more than doubled in the past 30 years.
The good news is that melanoma is the only deadly cancer that can be diagnosed just by examining the skin. If you have a new, changing, or suspicious mole, even if it is smaller than a pencil eraser, then have it checked as soon as possible by your dermatologist.
Even a small melanoma is a melanoma.
Photo credit: FCC, pj_vanf