Moles come in all shapes and sizes, even in a range of colors. As most of us have at least a couple of them on our bodies, they often go overlooked or forgotten. Yet with the risk of skin cancer, this is one part of your skin that you absolutely should pay attention to. Monitoring the look and texture of your moles is one important step towards prevention of skin cancer.
In case you need a review, you can refresh your knowledge of mole health in our two-part series on the dangers of skin cancer: Skin Cancer Basics Part 1 and Part 2. We also have step-by-step directions for performing a self-skin examination, which you can find here and here.
But what exactly should you look for when examining moles during a skin check? Knowing the facts of mole health can help you identify different types of moles and decide what to do about them, whether for medical or cosmetic reasons.
What should you know about moles?
A mole, or a nevus, is a slightly elevated spot on the skin, often congenital. They can range in color from flesh-colored or pink to brown or black. It is not uncommon for them to have hair.
Moles are very common, can be located anywhere on the skin and are generally harmless. According to The Mayo Clinic, they usually develop during childhood or adolescence and most people have 10 to 45 moles overall. It is rare that a mole appears after the age of 40, and some can fade or disappear as you get older.
WebMD notes that during pregnancy, due to hormones, a mole may darken or become larger. For the same reason, sometimes they darken during teenage years. You should still take note if the mole “changes in an irregular or uneven manner”.
When should you see a dermatologist?
If you notice a new mole developing as an adult or you have one that is larger than 6mm, has changed in color, size, shape or has begun itching or bleeding, you should have it checked by a dermatologist. They may wish to perform a biopsy, for the mole may be cancerous.
As a useful guide, the ABCDEs of melanoma detection is helpful for detecting cancerous moles.
When deciding whether or not to get a mole checked by a professional, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Early detection of skin cancer could save your life.
How do dermatologists treat moles?
Patients come to us to remove moles for a variety of reasons, including cancer prevention and cosmetic concerns. Regardless of the need, we can assist in the professional removal of any mole.
Why do I need an annual mole screen?
Because early detection is so important, we suggest an annual mole screening in addition to a monthly self check. These screenings are especially important if you have any risk factors, such as prolonged sun exposure, family history, many moles (defined by the Cleveland Clinic as more than 25), one or more past cancerous lesions, pale skin or light-colored hair and eyes.
Your body has many hard-to-see, overlooked areas. Even when you are armed with all this information, a doctor’s opinion is critical. Don’t forget that your skin is an organ, and you should take care of it as you would any other!
If you’re interested in mole removal or would like to schedule a mole screen, contact Georgia Dermatology Partners to schedule a consultation today.