All About Moles: What To Look For and When To See a Doctor

Even if you generally take good care of your skin and always wear sunscreen when outdoors, that doesn’t automatically mean you have a low risk of developing skin cancer. For example, just about everyone has moles on their skin, which can appear anywhere on the body. While having moles doesn’t mean you’re prone to developing melanoma, it’s recommended that you regularly inspect your moles and watch for potential warning signs. That way, you’ll be able to make appointments with the best skin doctors in your area right away to assess whether these moles might be malignant.

Different Types of Moles

It may surprise you to learn that there are actually a few different types of moles. Knowing the differences between these designations can help if and when you need to talk to reputable skin doctors about having a mole checked.

  • Congenital moles are moles that have been present since birth. Most people develop moles a little later in life, typically during childhood or early adulthood. Approximately 1% of people are born with moles. It’s a good idea to keep a close watch on these, as they may come with an increased risk of requiring mole removal due to cancer.
  • Acquired moles are the most common type. As we mentioned, they usually develop during childhood or early adulthood. Most experts believe that they develop due to sun exposure, but the majority of these moles are benign. They are most often smaller than a quarter inch in diameter.
  • Atypical moles are the kind that usually require some kind of mole treatment, as they are irregular in shape and larger in size. They often have uneven color patterns (i.e., a light brown or red border with a dark center, or even black dots around the edge). There may be genetic components to developing atypical moles, too. This means that if a close family relative has had experience with atypical, malignant moles, you may also want to keep a sharp eye out for the signs we’ll discuss in a moment.

 

Signs Your Mole Should Be Seen By a Skin Care Specialist

Approximately 20-30% of melanomas are found in existing moles. Although not all moles are cancerous, it’s still extremely important to keep an eye on them throughout your lifetime. Skin doctors recommend that you get in touch with a dermatologist if you observe…

  • Asymmetry: One half of a given mole looks noticeably different from the other half
  • Irregular Borders: A poorly defined, scalloped, or different-colored border around a mole
  • Varied Color: A given mole contains different shades of red, brown, black, white, and/or blue
  • Large Diameter: The size of a mole is larger than that of a pencil eraser
  • Evolving: One mole has changed in size, color, or shape over time
  • Discomfort: Experiencing pain, itching, or bleeding due to a mole
  • New Moles: In addition to keeping an eye on existing moles that might differ in appearance from others, you should also look for any new moles that develop (particularly if you’re over the age of 20)

It’s entirely possible that your skin doctors will determine — most likely after a biopsy — that an irregular mole could be benign with no cancer risk at all. But it’s important to catch these signs early to ensure your overall health.

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