Skin Moles: What to Look For and When to See a Doctor

skin moles

4.3 million Americans are treated for skin melanoma every year.

Thankfully, skin cancer is easy to detect. You can spot skin moles and get them removed in a quick doctor’s visit. However, it can be tricky to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy moles. 

What kinds of moles can you develop? How can you tell what moles are cancerous or not? How can you figure out how to get rid of moles on your skin? 

Answer these questions and you can take charge of your skin health. Here is your quick guide.

Types of Moles

There are three main kinds of moles. Congenital nevi are moles that you have from birth. They can be small, medium, and large, and they can be in any color. 

Most congenital moles are benign, though they can be unsightly. Very large moles may become skin cancer, but not often. 

Acquired moles are moles that you develop after birth. Most are very small, and you may need to look in a mirror in order to find them. Most acquired moles do not become cancerous, especially if you do not expose them to sunlight. 

Atypical moles may be moles you develop at birth or through sun exposure. Some of them have irregular borders and multiple colors while others of them are very large and uneven. 

It is okay to have a few atypical moles, especially if you notice that they are not changing over time. However, the more moles you have, the higher your risk is for skin cancer. 

Skin tags are small growths that resemble clusters of tissue. They are usually the same color as your skin, but they can be slightly darker. They are not moles or cancerous growths, though you can have them removed.

The ABCDEs of Skin Moles

An easy way to know when you need mole removal is to look at the ABCDEs of skin cancer moles. Most skin cancer moles have a few traits in common, and you can get them removed if they have three or more cancerous traits.

Asymmetry

Cancerous moles tend to be asymmetrical. One half of the mole does not resemble the other half.

One half of your mole may have a circular border, but the other half may have flat edges. One side may be a different color than the other side. It may also have a different texture, feeling smoother or bumpier than the other side. 

Your mole may have hairs growing through it, which can affect the symmetry. However, hairy moles are less likely to be cancerous than hairless moles. 

Borders

Cancerous moles do not have clear borders. The border of a mole may be scalloped, not circular or smooth. It may also be blurred, and you may find it hard to tell the difference between your healthy skin and the mole. 

Color

Benign moles may be black, brown, or white. They are rarely red or blue. 

Cancerous moles may have several colors. A mole may be mainly black, but it has brown or white spots or marks on it. As time goes on, these colors may change, with a mole becoming darker or developing new shades of brown. 

Diameter

Cancerous moles tend to be very large. A rule of thumb is to place a pencil eraser or the back of a pen against a mole. If the mole is bigger than the eraser or pen, it may be cancerous. 

However, benign moles can be very large. Take a look at the borders of the mole and see what they look like. If the mole has unusual borders, it is more likely to be cancerous.

Evolution

Cancerous moles may change in different ways over time. In addition to changing colors, the moles may become larger or develop a new texture. 

It can take weeks or months for moles to evolve. You will need to check yourself for moles several times during a year to see if the moles on your skin are changing.

Checking Yourself for Moles

You should try checking yourself for moles every month. Stand in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lit room. You can use a lamp or an overhead light to illuminate yourself. 

Start by examining your scalp, face, and the back of your neck. Moles can grow in hard-to-see places, including behind your eyes and underneath your hair. 

Once you’ve checked your head, you can look at your torso and arms. Turn around and take a look at your back and buttocks. Lift up your arms and check your armpits and the bottom of your arms. 

You can then look at your legs. Make sure you check the backs of your knees and the webbing between your toes. 

If you spot a mole, take a photograph of it. The next time you check yourself, look at it and compare it to the photograph you took.

Mole Removal Options

You should visit your doctor for a mole with the ABCDEs or a mole that bleeds or causes you pain. You can also go to your doctor if you have several new moles that you didn’t notice on a previous check. 

A doctor can perform a biopsy to determine if your mole is cancerous. They will use a blade to press into your skin and then remove a small amount of tissue from it. They can then run a test to determine if the tissue is cancerous. 

You can ask for mole removal at any time.

If you have a very small mole, you can get a surgical shave. A doctor uses a small blade to remove your mole as though they were shaving the hair off your skin. You won’t need stitches, though shaving can leave a small scar.

The Essentials of Skin Moles

Skin moles don’t have to worry you. Some people are born with moles, and these moles are rarely cancerous. 

Cancerous moles tend to have asymmetrical features, unusual borders, and multiple colors. They also tend to be bigger and change through time. 

You should stand before a full-length mirror and take photographs of any moles you see. If a mole bothers you, you should schedule an appointment and have it tested and removed. 

Do not wait around with unusual moles on your skin. ZG Wellness and Dermatology serves the Crestview Hills area. Contact us today.