While many moles are harmless, others can be a sign of skin cancer. Someone whose family has a history of skin cancer should be especially wary and check their moles once every month. When examining their moles, the patient should stand in front of a full-length mirror. They should pay particular attention to those parts of the body that get a lot of sun exposure, such as the face or arms.
What Is a Normal Mole Like?
Most people have moles, and they are generally harmless. Benign moles typically appear in childhood or early adulthood, although some people are born with moles. They are usually round or oval and can be raised or flat. They are usually less than ¼ inch in diameter. A benign mole will stay the same size, shape and color throughout its existence, although it might fade over time.
What Is A Dysplastic Nevus?
A dysplastic nevus or atypical mole looks different from a common mole. It is somewhat bigger, and it is usually flat with smooth, pebbly, or slightly scaly skin. It can range from pink to dark brown, and it can be a mix of different colors. While dysplastic nevi generally don’t turn into melanomas, their presence can mean that the patient is more likely to develop melanoma. Like regular moles, they appear early in a person’s life. Confusingly, they resemble melanomas but are benign. Unlike real melanomas, they don’t change over time.
What are the ABCDEs?
The ABCDEs are traits that dermatologists consider particularly worrisome. If somebody spots a mole with any of the below characteristics, they should call their dermatologist immediately. The ABCDEs include:
- Asymmetry: The mole has an irregular shape and its halves don’t match.
- Border: Similarly, the mole’s edges are irregular or blurred.
- Color: The mole has a mix of different colors. A benign mole will be all one color, usually a single shade of brown. A melanoma will either be a mix of colors or it will be red, white, or blue.
- Diameter: The mole’s diameter is bigger than that of an eraser on a pencil.
- Evolving: The mole looks different from other moles, or its appearance seems to be changing.
Any of the ABCDEs could be a sign of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Melanoma is most commonly found on the back in men and on the lower leg in women.
Other Danger Signs
Even if a mole doesn’t show any of the ABCDEs, it might still be cancerous. Moles that first appear in adulthood, for example, should be checked. So should moles that bleed, itch, ooze, look scaly, or cause pain.
What If You Find A Suspicious Mole?
If you find a suspicious mole, you dermatologist will perform a skin biopsy. We may use one of several methods, but the biopsy will always involve removing part of the skin and sending it to a lab for diagnosis. If you have a suspicious mole, or haven’t had an annual skin exam, contact Doctor’s Approach today.