When to Worry About Moles and Recognise Signs of Concern

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when-to-worry-about-moles-and-recognise-signs-of-concern

Moles are common skin growths that most people have. They can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups.

While most moles are harmless, it’s important to know when a mole might need further attention.

This blog will guide you on when to worry about moles, how to recognise signs of concern, and the importance of regular mole check-ups.

What Are Moles?

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Moles, also known as nevi, are clusters of pigmented cells that can appear anywhere on your body. They are usually brown or black and can be flat or raised. Most moles are benign and don’t pose any health risks. People can have anywhere from a few to several dozen moles, depending on genetics and sun exposure.

Types of Moles

Common Moles

These are small, round, and uniform in colour. They are typically less than 5 millimetres in diameter and can appear anywhere on the body.

Atypical Moles

Also known as dysplastic nevi, these moles are larger than common moles and have irregular shapes and colours. They can be a mix of tan, brown, and pink. Atypical moles have a higher chance of developing into melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

When to Worry About Moles

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While most moles are harmless, there are certain signs that you should be aware of. These signs can help you determine if a mole needs further evaluation by a healthcare professional.

Changes in Size, Shape, or Colour

One of the most important indicators of a potentially dangerous mole is a change in size, shape, or colour. If you notice a mole that starts to grow, develops irregular borders, or changes in colour, it’s time to get it checked. This is particularly important for moles that become darker or have multiple colours.

Asymmetry

A benign mole is usually symmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the mole, the two halves should match. If the mole is asymmetrical, meaning one half is different from the other, it could be a sign of melanoma.

Irregular Borders

The borders of a healthy mole are typically smooth and even. Moles with irregular, scalloped, or notched edges should be examined by a healthcare provider.

Multiple Colours

A benign mole usually has a single shade of brown or black. Moles that contain multiple colours or have shades of red, white, blue, or black are a cause for concern.

Diameter

Most benign moles are small, typically less than 5 millimetres in diameter. Moles larger than 6 millimetres, about the size of a pencil eraser, should be checked, especially if they exhibit any other worrisome signs.

Evolution

Any change in a mole over time, whether in size, shape, colour, or symptoms such as bleeding, itching, or crusting, is a warning sign. The “E” in the ABCDE rule stands for Evolution, and it’s crucial to monitor moles for any changes over time.

The Importance of Regular Mole Check Ups

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Mole check-up is essential for early detection of skin cancer. Skin cancer, including melanoma, is most treatable when caught early. By performing regular self-examinations and scheduling annual check-ups with a dermatologist, you can catch potential problems early.

How to Perform a Self-Examination

  1. Examine Your Skin: Use a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to inspect your entire body, including hard-to-see areas like your back, scalp, and the bottoms of your feet.
  2. Know Your Moles: Familiarise yourself with the location, size, and shape of your moles so you can detect any changes.
  3. Look for the ABCDEs: Asymmetry, Border, Colour, Diameter, and Evolution. Keep an eye out for any moles that meet these criteria.
  4. Photograph Your Moles: Take photos of your moles to track changes over time. This can be especially helpful for moles in hard-to-see areas.

When to See a Dermatologist

You should see a dermatologist if you notice any of the following:

  • A new mole that looks different from your other moles
  • A mole that changes in size, shape, or colour
  • A mole that itches, bleeds, or becomes painful
  • A mole that appears after age 30

Dermatologists are trained to evaluate moles and determine if they need to be biopsied or removed. They can also provide you with peace of mind if your moles are benign.

Treatment Options for Concerning Moles

If a dermatologist determines that a mole is suspicious, they may recommend a biopsy. This involves removing a small sample of the mole and examining it under a microscope. If the mole is found to be cancerous, it will need to be removed. Treatment options include:

  • Surgical Excision: The mole and some surrounding tissue are removed surgically.
  • Shave Excision: The mole is shaved off the surface of the skin.
  • Laser Removal: In some cases, lasers can be used to remove moles, though this is less common for potentially cancerous moles.

Conclusion

Moles are common and usually harmless, but it’s important to know when to worry about them. By recognising the signs of potentially dangerous moles and performing regular self-examinations, you can catch problems early. Don’t underestimate the importance of a mole check-up with your dermatologist. Regular check-ups can provide peace of mind and are crucial for early detection of skin cancer, especially with the latest healthcare innovations. Stay vigilant and proactive about your skin health to ensure any concerns are addressed promptly.