Most moles are harmless spots on your skin. However, they can also be a sign of melanoma, a highly dangerous type of skin cancer. It is important that you know the changes in moles that can signal the formation of skin cancer. Once you know the changes, you can perform a mole evaluation and seek quick and effective skin mole treatment.
Moles (also called “nevi”) are a round or oval cluster of pigmented skin cells that appear on the surface of your skin anywhere on your body. The clusters can be flat or raised, and while they are usually brown, they can also be tan, pink, black, red or blue. The surface of a mole can be smooth or uneven and can have hair growing from it. Moles are extremely common, with most adults having at least a few moles -- people with lighter skin typically have 10-40 moles. Normally, moles appear during childhood or adolescence and grow as the individual grows, sometimes lightening or darkening. The hormonal changes of puberty and pregnancy can cause harmless changes in moles.
Some people opt for cosmetic mole removal, but the more critical type of mole removal is when a mole is found to have melanoma.
Changes in moles can be a sign of melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer), so it is imperative that you are vigilant about alterations in your mole's shape, size, color, and texture. While most changes don’t indicate skin cancer, you should get changing moles checked out by a dermatologist. Melanoma is highly treatable if caught early. Your dermatologist can perform a skin examination, a mole biopsy, and mole removal, if necessary.
An easy way to remember what changes to look for is to follow the ABCDE guide.
A: Asymmetry -- if one half of your mole is unlike the other half, get it checked.
B: Border -- look for an irregular border to your mole, such as notches, scallops, or uneven edges.
C: Color -- be aware of changes in your mole's coloring, such as uneven coloring in your mole, multiple colors in one mole, or change from one color to another.
D: Diameter -- a healthy mole is usually about 6mm in diameter, which is the size of a pencil eraser. If your mole grows larger than this, it is time to get the mole checked by a doctor. Some melanomas are smaller than 6mm, so also note any significant change in diameter, even if it is smaller than 6mm.
E: Evolving -- this describes any changes in size, height, color, border, or shape. Other changes in moles that are concerning are a rapidly growing mole, a mole growing back where it was removed, part or all of your mole turning black, a mole starting to itch or bleed, or a mole becoming hard.
The key to beating melanoma is early detection. You should do monthly self-examinations in front of a mirror and with a hand mirror. If you are in a higher risk group - fair-skinned, family history of melanoma, having more than 40 moles, excessive ultraviolet light exposure, a history of sunburn, a weakened immune system - you may want to schedule regular examinations with a dermatologist to look for changes in your moles and other skin spots.
Schedule an appointment with Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area. The board-certified dermatologists can perform a mole evaluation, perform a skin mole removal and help you monitor your own skin in between appointments.