Moles are ubiquitous. Almost all adults have some moles, and some people have loads of them. Most moles are harmless, thankfully, but sometimes they’re not. They can be a form of melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.
How do you tell the difference between moles that aren’t a problem and those that might be cancerous?
Our board-certified dermatologists with Seacoast Dermatology are the experts in helping you keep your skin healthy. A part of that is checking your moles as well as the rest of your skin.
During your annual visit, we perform an all-body examination of your skin. We examine the places you can’t easily see: your scalp, the area behind your ears, your back, and more. We check every area on your body for signs of skin cancer, so you can leave our office reassured.
Moles are simply clusters of skin cells that grow together in a clump instead of spreading evenly within your skin. The cells are pigmented, so the mole is usually a brown color. Moles last in general about 50 years. They eventually become a lighter color and may fade away.
You should monitor moles because changes in a mole can signal malignant melanoma. You’re more likely to get a cancerous mole on skin that’s had a lot of sun exposure, but some people get them on the soles of the feet and other places that aren’t typically exposed to the sun.
Dermatologists have created a simple guide to help you check your moles. Following are the ABCDEs of moles.
“A” stands for asymmetrical. If you have an asymmetrical mole, half of the mole looks different from the other half. One half may have an irregular border, for example, while the other half is a different color. These are signs that your mole may be cancerous. Benign moles are usually symmetrical.
Does the border of your mole appear jagged, with no clearly defined edge? Your mole could be cancerous. Most moles have defined borders and are often round or oval; these are usually benign.
As you examine your moles, do they look the same color? That’s good news. Most moles are a shade of brown.
Does part of a mole appear tan while another part looks black, brown, red, white, or blue? If you have a mole that is multi-colored, please call our office for an appointment. It could be cancerous.
Look at the size of your moles. If they’re the same size as the head of a No. 2 pencil or smaller, that’s normal. If you have larger moles, we need to examine them to ensure they’re benign.
If your moles are brown, round, and look the same as they did a year ago, they’re probably benign. Cancerous moles may grow larger or change shape or color. If you have a mole that starts to itch or bleed, please call us at Seacoast Dermatology, and we’ll fit you in for an appointment.
If your skin is a dark tone, changes in a mole may be hard to spot. If you notice a darker area of skin than the surrounding area, please call our office. An aggressive form of melanoma is the most frequent kind of this serious form of skin cancer found in people of color.
Call Seacoast Dermatology today for an appointment at one of our convenient offices if you have a question about your skin health. We’re located in Portsmouth, Exeter, and Dover, New Hampshire.