If you have moles, it is important that you watch them for signs of melanoma, a type of skin cancer that frequently develops near moles. Detected and treated early, melanoma is often curable. The first step in detecting skin cancer is to know when to worry about a mole.
Simply having moles is no special cause for concern. A mole, otherwise known as a nevus, is a pigmented spot on the outer layer of the skin. Moles are common, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, with almost every adult having at least a few moles.
Types of Moles
There are several types of skin moles, with some types of moles presenting a greater risk for the development of melanoma.
Atypical mole (dysplastic)
An atypical mole is larger than the eraser on a pencil, has an odd shape, and is often multiple colors. They appear anywhere on the body but rarely on the face. An atypical mole can look like melanoma, although it is not, but people with atypical moles are at increased risk for melanoma if they have four or more atypical moles, have already had melanoma, or have an immediate relative with melanoma.
A congenital mole is one you are born with. About one in 100 people are born with a congenital mole. These moles range in size from tiny to giant, with larger moles presenting a greater risk for melanoma.
An acquired mole, otherwise known as the common mole, is one that appears after you are born. People with light skin tend to have a greater number of common moles – as many as 10 to 40 on their skin. Having more than 50 increases the risk for skin cancer.
When to Worry about Moles
You should not be overly worried about your moles but you should check your moles and the rest of your skin frequently.
The first sign of skin cancer is a change in a mole’s appearance. Make an appointment with a dermatologist if you notice a mole has changed in size, shape or texture. The appearance of a new mole is also noteworthy. If a mole starts to grow, itch or bleed, make an appointment with your dermatologist immediately.
Moles are common in children too and, as in adults, are usually harmless. Unlike adults, it is common for new moles to appear during childhood and adolescence, and it is normal for these moles to grow as the child grows. These moles may even change color, with some moles growing lighter in color and others growing darker.
If you are worried about a mole, make an appointment with your local dermatologist. Avail Dermatology has been a respected provider of dermatological services and cosmetic skin care in Newnan since 1990, and now also has a treatment office in Peachtree City.