Moles… you’ve probably got them, but how much do you really know about them? Keep reading for everything you’ve ever wondered (and a few things you haven’t) about moles.
What Is a Mole?
Moles occur when a type of cell known as a melanocyte grow in cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin. Melanocytes produce the pigment in your skin. They can occur anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups.
How Common Are Moles?
Moles are very common. Most adults have at least a few, but many have more. It is normal to have between 10-40 moles by adulthood. Some moles are present at birth (called congenital nevi), but most develop during childhood and adolescence. It is very rare to develop a new mole after 30 (and if you do, it needs to be examined by a doctor).
Do Moles Cause Cancer?
Moles do not cause cancer, despite their association with melanoma. This skin cancer originates in melanocytes, the same cells moles are made of, so a mole can potentially develop cancer. Melanoma can also develop on areas of the skin without moles. Most moles will never develop melanoma.
Do I Need to Examine My Moles? How Often?
You should perform regular self-examinations of your skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends an at-home check once a month. After you’re used to process, it should take less than 10 minutes each check. Here’s a helpful guide that will help you learn what to do when you check your skin.
How Can I Tell if a Mole Is Cancerous?
Melanoma can vary greatly in its appearance, but many share some similar features. The ABCDE rule will give you a good idea of some of the traits of early melanomas. Remember, not all melanomas display all features. Come see Dr. Lewis if you have any moles displaying an irregular feature.
- Asymmetrical: If one side is different from the other, come see us.
- Border: Melanomas often have irregular borders including uneven edges or the appearance of fading into the surrounding skin
- Color: Moles can be many colors, but they should be one color. Come in for a check if you spot a mole with multiple colors or with different shades of a singular color.
- Diameter: How big is your mole? Most melanomas are bigger than 6 mm (about 1/4 inch).
- Evolving: Changing moles, including new moles during adulthood, need a check.
You should see a doctor for a professional skin cancer check at least once a year.
How Can I Prevent Skin Cancer?
One of the best ways to prevent skin cancer is to wear sunscreen. Come see us if you are looking for a high quality sunscreen from great skin care lines like Skinceuticals or Obagi.