Mole Frequency, Size & Shape
Most moles are harmless. However, changes in a mole’s color, shape, texture, or size could signal a cancerous growth. Furthermore, people with a large number of moles (50 or more) have elevated risks of developing melanoma or other types of skin cancer.
Different Types Of Moles
People can develop acquired nevi during childhood and into early adulthood. The majority of these moles are smaller than one-quarter inch and never develop into skin cancer.
Generally small, pink, and dome-shaped, Spitz nevi are commonly mistaken for melanoma during physical examinations; but this type of mole is benign. These growths are often found in children and teenagers and usually appear on the face, neck, and legs. Some have black, blue, brown, or red coloration.
Congenital nevi are present on a person from birth. These moles are round- or oval-shaped and can be one shade or multi-colored. The larger the size of congenital nevi, the higher its risk for developing into skin cancer.
Atypical Dysplastic Nevi
At more than one-quarter inch in diameter, atypical dysplastic nevi are larger than average moles. Visually, they are irregular-shaped, while most have dark brown centers with light, uneven borders.
How Do I Examine My Moles?
Using a full-length mirror or a hand mirror, perform a full-body examine that begins at the top of your head and ends at your toes. Make sure to inspect every area of the body, including the sides, back, as well as hidden areas, such as the area between the fingers and soles of the feet. Make a journal note for every mole you find that includes a description of its appearance during each examination. Keeping records of any changes in moles from month-to-month will help you spot cancerous moles as early as possible.
Mole Examination Guide
Early detection of changes in moles is vital for effective skin cancer prevention and treatment. Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center recommends a monthly visual examine of your body, including all areas that aren’t typically exposed to the sun. To determine if a mole could become cancerous, use the American Academy of Dermatology's ABCDEs:
- Asymmetry: There is a difference in color, shape, or size of the two halves of the mole.
- Border: The edges of a mole have a poor definition or are irregular in shape, such as scalloped borders.
- Color: The color or shade (such as black, blue, brown, red, tan, or white) varies throughout the mole.
- Diameter: Most cancerous moles have a larger diameter than 6 millimeters, although some may be smaller.
- Evolving: A mole evolves when it changes size, color, or size between examinations.
Abnormal moles can bleed and become scaly, itchy, or painful. Inform your dermatologist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms or discover a new mole. Cancerous moles are typically diagnosed following a biopsy or the surgical removal of the mole.
Why Remove Moles?
Moles are commonly removed because they’re cancerous, but some patients choose to remove moles for cosmetic reasons or health precautions. Dermatologists utilize three mole-removal techniques: excisional surgery, shave excision, and punch biopsy. Surgery or laser treatments is generally used in mole removal for cosmetic reasons. But your dermatologist will determine which of the three techniques is most appropriate for your goals and health needs.
Mole Detection & Treatment Options
Moles are detected through a visual examination of the skin performed by yourself or an Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center dermatologist. Although most patients don’t require mole treatment, surgical removal is just one of the options available for patients with precancerous or cancerous moles. During your consultation, a dermatologist will determine the skin-care treatment that’s most effective for treating your moles while leaving as minimal scarring as possible.