DermTV, The Skin Cancer Foundation, the American Academy of Dermatology, The American Cancer Society, and many other leading authorities all stress the importance of self examinations as an aid to the early detection of cancer since the earlier you find it, the more apt it is to be completely curable. So this episode is going to be about a trick for doing better self skin cancer exams.
Generally speaking, in most medical issues, symmetry is a reliable indicator that something isn’t dangerous. So, in doing a self skin exam, if you find a mole or growth that is symmetric, then it is probably normal and not cancerous or precancerous. And just to remind you, a growth is symmetrical if you can fold it down the middle and the two halves are identical. Just like when I fold this circle in half.
Yet in all of medicine there is only one situation that I know of where symmetry actually is a bad sign and usually indicates that something is abnormal and in fact at very least, precancerous.
That situation occurs when two moles occur symmetrically to each other on your body.
So imagine a line drawn down the center of your body, which of course goes right through your belly button. If you have two moles on your stomach, both about equal distance to the left and right of your bellybutton, then there is a very high probability that both of those moles are precancerous and each have a 20 to 25% life time probability of becoming melanomas. They should be shown to a dermatologist and probably be removed.
The bottom line is that moles which are symmetric to each other with respect to the midline of your body are usually very dangerous, precancerous moles which if not removed have an unacceptably high probability of becoming deadly melanomas, a cancer that sadly claims the life of one American every hour.
This is a truly rare medical example of symmetry being very dangerous, so if you come across it, show it to your doctor.