We all have spots on our bodies that come and go, but in the case of a mole, it might make us wonder if it’s something that might need attention. Moles come in different sizes, shapes, colors, and texture, and like skin types, will vary by individual. However, there are characteristics that we can use to evaluate whether a mole is something to worry about, and whether or not it should be checked out. A self-evaluation doesn’t replace a doctor’s examination, but knowing what to look for if something is off can lead to early intervention in more serious cases.
A mole is a cluster of pigmented cells, thought to be the result of sun damage and plain genetics. It is round or oval, has a smooth surface with a distinct edge (or is flat), and is uniform in color. The average person has somewhere between 10 and 40 moles on their body. Most moles are nothing to worry about, and many remain our entire lives. New moles tend to arrive when hormone levels change or from sun damage like sunburn. When new ones arrive, it’s important to take notice and potentially have a preventative screening.
Although common moles are not cancerous, people who have more than 50 common moles have an increased chance of developing melanoma. If you have light hair, light skin, and light eyes, you may be at a higher risk for certain types of skin cancer. Noticing a new mole, or any changes in a common mole, as an adult might be a warning sign.
Asymmetry: Healthy moles are typically symmetrical, whether oblong or circular. While your moles may not be perfectly symmetrical, any glaring abnormalities should be noted immediately.
Border: Most healthy moles will have a clearly defined, smooth border. Moles that are cancerous, or melanomas, typically have a blurred border around one section or the entire mole.
Color: One of the very first signs of a cancerous mole is a noticeable change in color. Keep in mind that moles may vary in color depending on your skin tone. If one of your moles varies drastically in color from the others on your skin, it could be time to talk to your doctor about a skin cancer screening. In addition, keep an eye out for moles that are inconsistent in color, or more than one color at the same time.
Diameter: A typical or common mole is fairly small in size, only about the size of a pencil eraser in diameter. Atypical moles are moles that are larger in size or are oddly shaped. Any mole larger than about 6mm may be cause for worry, especially true if the mole in question recently grew to that size or larger.
Evolving: Moles should not change over the course of your life. If they do, it's important to monitor them closely and contact your dermatologist to set up a skin cancer screening. Different types of skin cancer may result in different evolutions, but in general, any change in a mole's size, shape, color, or texture should be noted immediately.
If you’re concerned about a new mole, or changes to an existing one, schedule an appointment today to have a mole evaluation by one of our qualified dermatologists. Preventative screenings are effective at identifying early signs of skin cancer.