Self and medical provider examination of moles is extremely important.
Moles are benign tumors that come from melanocytes, which are the cells in the skin that make the pigment melanin. Generally, moles are not present in birth, but begin to appear sometime in early childhood. White adults usually have between ten and forty moles on the body. This number increases up to middle-age and then the moles gradually disappear. During their life on the skin, moles tend to grow slowly. Some may become darker and some develop a slightly raised surface. Even though normal moles change slightly, they tend to keep a sharp border and relatively even color. Eventually moles may lose their color and even slough off and disappear completely. Such moles are thought to be normal and have little potential for harm.
Congenital nevi are moles that are present at birth. Some people may notice one or more of these moles on their bodies. Congenital moles may vary greatly in size. Small congenital moles may be difficult to distinguish from common moles. Large ones may cover wide areas of the body, arms, legs, or the face. They may have a single color or shades of brown, black, pink or red. Some congenital moles may contain hair which, if present, is usually coarse. Most congenital moles have an irregular shape. They are usually flat at birth, but become thick and rough during childhood. Since congenital nevi may be precursors of malignant melanoma, you must be aware of the "A, B, C, D, E's" of moles, which are listed below. In addition, you should visit a dermatologist every 6 months and promptly report any changes you may observe. Be especially concerned if a mole is changing color, size, or shape. Other suspicious symptoms include itching or burning. A mole that bleeds with minimal trauma is also suspicious.
Self-examination of moles is extremely important. All people should be alert for changes in any mole on their body, as moles can be linked to skin cancer. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to be certain about the nature of a mole simply by inspecting it; therefore, any mole which is suspicious should be examined by a dermatologist.
You should be especially concerned if a mole is changing in color, size, or shape. Other suspicious symptoms include itching, burning, or bleeding with minimal trauma. When inspecting a mole, you should evaluate the following features:
A. Asymmetry: Examine the mole for uniformity of shape, color and size.
B. Borders: Examine the mole for any irregularity in the border.
C. Color: Examine the mole for a change in color or a mixture of colors, especially, black, gray, blue or red.
D. Diameter: A mole would be suspicious if the diameter is greater than 6 mm (about the size of a pencil eraser).
E. Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.
The ABCDEs of Melanoma:
Any suspicious mole should be examined by a dermatologist, who will decide if it is necessary to do a biopsy. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to be certain about the nature of a mole simply by inspecting it, but these guidelines should help to catch any cases of skin cancer at a point when they are easily treatable.
If you would like further information about moles or skin cancer, please contact our office.