Be aware of what your moles look like – most are harmless, but sometimes skin cancer can develop in or near a mole.
If you are aware of what your own moles look like and where they are located, it can help you find skin cancer early on. When found early and treated properly, skin cancer has a high cure rate.
The Different Types of Moles
There are a variety of different mole types:
- Congenital nevi – The medical word for a birthmark or mole
- Dysplastic nevi – An atypical mole. These moles may be larger in size, discolored, have irregular surfaces/edges, grow, and have uneven surfaces. These moles and congenital nevi are the two mole types that are the most likely to develop into melanoma.
- Acquired nevi – Moles that are acquired by a person after birth. A mole can be both an acquired mole and dysplastic nevi simultaneously.
- Spitz nevus – These moles very much resemble melanoma, and can be hard to distinguish without a biopsy. Spitz nevus moles may bleed or leak pus.
Moles can be completely normal. However, if your mole has any of the following characteristics, known as the ABCDEs of moles, you should get it examined immediately.
- A – Asymmetry – If your mole isn’t symmetrical, it may be a sign of cancer.
- B – Borders – Moles that aren’t cancerous have smooth borders; moles that are cancerous have jagged borders.
- C – Color – Benign moles are usually light to dark brown in color, and are one color throughout. Moles that may be cancerous are multiple colors, including red.
- D – Diameter – Moles that are under one millimeter in width normally don’t pose a problem; larger moles may be cancerous.
- E – Evolving – Non-cancerous moles tend to look the same over time. On the other hand, dangerous moles are evolving and growing, changing size and color with time.
Removing a Mole
If your dermatologist locates a mole or another abnormal-looking spot, they may recommend removing it. This can be performed during an office visit and is a safe and simple procedure. The first step is to numb the area and then your dermatologist will surgically remove the mole. At times, stitches are needed, but not all wounds require them.
The skin removed will be examined under a microscope and may be sent to a lab. The process of removing the skin and examining it under a microscope is called a skin biopsy.
Make an Appointment to Have Your Moles Looked at Today
If any of your moles meet any of the ABCDE criteria listed above, you should schedule an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible. Use the buttons below to find a clinician or a location near you that treats moles.