First, what is a mole?
A mole is a dark, raised spot on our skin comprised of skin cells that have grown in a group rather than individually. These cells are called melanocytes and are responsible for producing melanin, the pigment (color) in our skin.
Moles can form from sun exposure, but we are 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. Moles can also 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, we need to conduct skin checks regularly(recommended monthly, especially if you have a relative with skin cancer) to see if our moles have changed.
Get familiar with your moles
Knowing what’s normal for your body is key to detecting potentially harmful changes. Taking inventory of your body every month by conducting skin checks allows you to see when any new moles or lesions are growing or if existing moles are changing.
What’s a normal mole?
A normal mole will be even in color, quite small and will usually have appeared during the early part of your life. Most importantly, a normal mole will arrive and stay the same. It won’t change and it won’t evolve. That is what really makes it normal.
What’s a dangerous mole?
A potentially cancerous mole will usually exhibit these symptoms:
- develops a crust or a scab
- sometimes bleeds
- is itchy
- feels tender
- is getting bigger or swelling
- is strangely shaped (ie. not round)
- has borders that are irregular
- includes lots of different colors or shades
- is bigger than the size of a pencil eraser in diameter
- has appeared recently (ie. when you are an adult)
Remember the ABCDE method:
Dermatologists identify melanoma symptoms using the ABCDE method. This method shows you which signs to look out for when examining suspicious moles, spots or growths on your skin.
- Asymmetrical – Melanomas are distinctly asymmetrical
- Border – melanomas have uneven borders
- Colours – melanomas will contain at least two distinct colours
- Diameter – melanomas are bigger than ¼ inch across
- Enlargement – melanomas grow in size over time
The evolution of your mole(s) has become the most important factor to consider when it comes to diagnosing a melanoma. Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life. If a mole has gone through recent changes in color and/or size, bring it to the attention of a dermatologist immediately.
The Melanoma Research Foundation provides a handy overview of the method you can reference when performing skin checks.
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Use SkinVision to keep an eye on your moles, find out their potential risk for cancer and track changes over time.