For many of us, moles are just the brown spots on our body that we pay little attention. They come in many shapes and sizes that can tell us important information about the health of our skin. Understanding a variety of moles and how to identify them is the best way to prevent skin cancer and stay healthy. It is recommended that you conduct a mole check often and report anything unusual to a doctor.
Mole Check – What is a Mole?
A mole is a pigmented, raised spot on our skin comprised of skin cells that have grown as a group rather than individually. These cells are called melanocytes and are responsible for producing melanin, the pigment in our skin.
Moles can develop from sun exposure, but we’re also born with them, inheriting them genetically. Although the number of moles varies from person to person, fair-skinned people generally have more moles due to lower amounts of melanin in their skin. The average adult has between 10 and 40 moles on their body. Moles can even come and go with hormonal changes such as pregnancy or puberty.
Most people develop more moles on their skin naturally with age and sun exposure, and most of the time these moles are harmless. However, it is recommended that we conduct mole checks regularly to see if any of our moles have changed, monthly if there is a family history of skin cancer.
Types of Moles
Moles are categorized by multiple factors including when they developed, where they are located on the skin and if they exhibit typical or atypical symptoms. That means moles are often described by multiple classifications. For instance, you can have a common acquired junctional nevus or an atypical congenital nevus.
Common– A common mole is one that is usually about 5-6 mm in diameter, has distinct edges, a smooth, dome-like surface a, d even pigmentation. These moles are usually found on skin regularly exposed to the sun and have the potential to turn into skin cancer, but it is a rare occurrence.
Atypical– Atypical moles exhibit irregular symptoms. They usually have fuzzy or blurry borders and vary in color. They are larger than most moles and have both flat and raised components. While atypical moles share a lot of the same signs of precancerous or cancerous moles, most of them are benign. However, someone with many atypical moles is at an increased risk for skin cancer. The more atypical moles a person has, the higher their risk. Regular self-examinations are important to detect changes in these types of moles.
When doing a mole check, it is best to compare your moles to each other. Most spots on your body should look similar to one another. Anything that stands out or looks different from the surrounding moles is worth taking notice of and is considered an outlier. Outlier moles look or feel different from other moles and changes over time. It may be a single small mole among larger ones or a single large mole in among smaller ones. It is something that sticks out from the rest.
The ABCD-EFG Rules of Mole Checks
The ABCD check has been very effective at helping to identify superficial spreading melanomas early. Superficial spreading melanoma can have any one of the following:
Asymmetry– The shape of one half does not match the other.
Border– The edges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
Color- The color is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. There are areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue.
Diameter- Size changes and usually increases. Typically, melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter, that’s about the diameter of a pencil.
There is a class of rapidly growing nodular melanoma, which represent about 20% of all cases of melanoma. This type of melanoma does not subscribe to the ABCD rule and can go undetected. Fortunately, they do behave in a way that allows them to be identified early using the EFG rule. Nodular melanoma is usually elevated, firm, and growing.
Remember, moles don’t need to be dark or have other colors to them. The key giveaway is that they are raised, asymmetrical, firm to touch, and are changing progressively. This type of melanoma can affect anyone but is generally much more common in men over 50. The frightening thing about nodular melanoma is that because they are growing fast, they can go deep very quickly which is why they are so dangerous and need early diagnosis and removal.
Be Proactive and Mole Check
Skin safety is not something that should be taken lightly. When it comes to moles, identifying them report anything unusual to a doctor is the best way to prevent skin cancer and stay healthy. At MoleSafe, our approach is proactive and comprehensive. Our MoleSafe Skin Surveillance Program has the reliable accuracy to reveal skin cancer and melanoma at the earliest possible stage for fast, effective treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.