Moles aren’t supposed to be scary. Chances are, everyone has at least one or two somewhere on their body. Especially for fairer skin people. These moles are never twins either! No two moles have the same size, texture, shape, location, or color.
Most moles are harmless, some only a cosmetic concern. However, there can be others that indicate a deeper issue. Skin cancer. The only way to know for sure is to check in with your dermatologist.
So, how does your doctor know what to look for in these examinations that you can’t see yourself? How often and when should you visit your dermatologist for an evaluation.
Let’s start with, what are moles, really?
Moles are also known as nevi. Bundles of skin cells that produce melanocytes, or skin pigmentation. This excess skin pigmentation is why most moles are darker in color. Mostly brown. Melanocytes spread somewhat evenly throughout the skin, and doctors don’t really know why these clusters of skin appear, but can link them to genetics. If your family develops moles, it is likely you will too. Most of our moles show up during our childhood and adolescent years. Most have no true issues and don’t threaten your health. Some, you may find, will even disappear on their own.
However, while most moles are benign, some can be of concern under specific circumstances. Fortunately though, detecting the signs of skin cancer is easy with early evaluation. During your exam, your dermatologist will look for specific visual cues that could indicate a deeper problem. Mostly known as the “ABCs” or “ABCDE” guide for moles.
ABCs /ABCDEs are not just for the alphabet…
Each letter stands for the first letter of a visual cue during your mole check up. The ABCDEs are used to help determine whether your mole might be more than just a cluster of skin pigmentation.
- A refers to Asymmetrical shape
- B stands for Border
- C is for Color
- D deals with Diameter
- E refers to Evolution or Evolving
The quicker you get examined the better your early prognosis. The ABCDEs could also be listed as follows:
- Asymmetry: Moles are typically small and circular. A mole that is irregularly shaped might be precancerous.
- Border: A mole with a solid, definitive edge is no cause for concern. However, a mole with ragged or uneven borders demands a look from your dermatologist.
- Color: Harmless moles are a single, brownish color. If you have any multi colored moles or those that appear black, red, white, or even blue, you should call your dermatologist.
- Diameter: Moles with a diameter smaller than a pencil eraser are unlikely to be cancerous. Large moles, on the other hand, could be hazardous to your health. Have these moles evaluated for your peace of mind.
- Evolution: Moles can change and develop any of the above characteristics. That’s why you should conduct a self-exam for signs of dangerous moles once a month.
No matter which way you remember it, it’s a useful guide for all things mole.
When it comes to the normal cosmetic mole, they often stay uniform in shape and color, they don’t change sizes, and have a clearly defined border. Even if your mole lacks some of these qualities, it could still be benign. Presenting them to your doctor to be examined keeps your risk down. There’s no better advocate for your health other than yourself.
If your dermatologist feels your mole needs a deeper prognosis, they may perform a full or partial mole biopsy for further examination. If the biopsy reveals a positive diagnosis for possible skin cancer, the mole will have to be removed. Further testing may also be necessary.
This can determine the frequency of when and how often you see your dermatologist. Your number of risk factors and overall risk level for skin cancer could make your visits more or less frequent. This can include how many moles you have, the size, and family history.
Even without all these factors, people who are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer should see their dermatologist more regularly. Maybe, once or twice a year depending. Some with multiple moles, checked every few months. For people with lower risks, going a year or two in between visits is completely normal.
Much like most of our health concerns, it’s important to keep an eye on them yourself. Noticing anything strange or changes that seem different, should alert you to set up an appointment right away.
The good news is, most moles are nothing to worry about, even the ones that aren’t your favorite to look at. As for most things, better safe than sorry though! Staying ahead of your health and concerns not only keeps you out of serious harm but keeps your skin in healthy shape!
Many of our concerning moles can indicate the most serious skin cancer, melanoma. If you notice your mole is itchy or bleeding, this could be a sign. For individuals 30 years and older, a new or changing mole is at risk for melanoma.
That’s why it’s so important to know what your moles look like. Found early, melanoma is highly treatable.
You’re more likely to spot melanoma early if you know:
- Where you have moles
- What your moles look like
Melanoma is the most serious issue but not the only issue. A mole can become a problem if:
- Snags on clothing or jewelry
- Is easily irritated
- Looks unattractive to you
When clothing or jewelry rubs against the mole it can become irritated and uncomfortable.
If you have a mole where you shave your skin, you could hit the mole and cause it to bleed. This can be annoying. Or maybe the mole just makes you feel ugly. We are very keen to our attractiveness and moles can cause us some cosmetic injustices.
It’s best to have a dermatologist examine the mole and decide if it could be removed for whatever the reason.
Removing a mole…
Trying to remove a mole by yourself could end more bad than good when it comes to the skin. Everything from pastes to shaving it off can cause an allergic reaction, serious scarring or infection. Even hiding the mole in a tattoo can also hide potential signs of melanoma that could develop later on in the skin. If you give melanoma time to grow, it becomes much harder to treat.
Talk to your dermatologist about removing a mole. Most of them can be removed with an office visit without any recovery time.
Even with a dermatologist removing a harmless mole, there’s an advantage there. They can still check for harmful signs, including melanoma.
This is important, finding the treatment needed as early as possible gives you the best possible outcome for your future health. Or, maybe you just find out your mole is harmless and you can have peace of mind about it. Either way, keeping an eye on them for signs of skin cancer is the best way to be an advocate for your health. Over time, mole can become skin tags. This is not skin cancer, but you should still watch out for your ABCDEs.
So watch out for these types of moles that have potential to be cancer:
- New moles: No, not all new moles are dangerous, but keep an eye on any that develop after age 20. New moles in places with high sun exposure—such as your head, face, chest, arms, and back of the hands—are especially worrying.
- Bothersome moles: Any moles that itch, bleed, or cause pain should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
- Atypical moles: These are the types of moles that showcase the ABCDEs of skin cancer. They may run in your family and increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
Regardless, be rest assured that most of the time, there’s no reason to get anxious over a mole. Most moles are harmless and don’t even need to be removed – unless it’s your choice to remove it. However, you won’t have any definitive answers unless you visit your dermatologist.
The appointments are quick. With only the possibility of a biopsy, there’s not much to do to determine or rule out skin cancer or melanoma.
If you do happen to have a mole that was found to be cancerous, you’re most likely given the time to act quickly and remove it in its earliest stage. This is when the mole is the most treatable. Treatment can be as simple as removing the mole in its earliest stage. A one, two, three process of numbing the treatment area, removing the mole and closing the areas with a couple of stitches.
It’s worth not having skin cancer in the long run!
Visit Balshi Dermatology in Delray Beach, FL for Any Questions Regarding A Mole
Moles are a common type of skin growth. They often appear as small, dark brown spots and are caused by clusters of pigmented cells. Moles generally appear during childhood and adolescence. Most moles are harmless. Rarely, they become cancerous. Monitoring moles and other pigmented patches is an important step in detecting skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma.
Balshi Dermatology can examine, diagnose, and remove any precancerous or cancerous growths you find on your skin. Contact us today to ask questions or set an appointment at our location in Delray Beach, Florida.