Most people have a mole on their skin at some point in their lives, and this is nothing to worry about. Most moles are benign, meaning they are not harmful. However, moles can be a sign of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. It's important you check your skin often to make sure you aren't developing what could potentially be cancerous moles. It can be difficult to tell if you have skin cancer moles, so make sure you speak with your doctor as soon as possible if you have any concerns.
What is a Normal Mole?
A normal mole can be pink, tan or brown and is usually about the width of a pencil eraser. They are typically found above your waist and can appear anytime between birth and about 40 years. They will typically be symmetrical in shape, and you shouldn't notice a rapid growth of the mole. You can have up to 50 normal moles without needing to worry about melanoma. These moles are not dangerous and typically don't need to be removed.
What is a Mole that Could Mean Skin Cancer?
Moles that grow rapidly, are asymmetrical or have multiple colors should be checked for skin cancer. An atypical mole does not necessarily mean you have skin cancer, but it could be a good indication. A dermatologist can take a look at the mole for you and help you determine if it's a non-threatening mole or if you should have it tested. You should also speak with your dermatologist if you have more than 50 normal appearing moles.
Can a Normal Mole Change to a Dangerous One?
For the most part, a mole does not change over time. In rare occurrences, moles have changed from a normal mole to a cancerous mole, but it is typically something you won't have to worry about. If your mole changes color, grows larger, or experiences any other type of change, you do want to have it checked.
What Should You Do If You're Worried?
If you're unsure of whether a mole is cancerous or not, you're going to want to speak with a dermatologist. It's often difficult even for professionals to tell the difference between moles. If your dermatologist is unsure, they can test the mole to find out whether it is cancerous or not. These tests are accurate and will allow you to find skin cancer early enough for it to be treated if you see your dermatologist at the first sign of a change.
What Happens if It is Cancerous?
If you do have a skin cancer mole, your dermatologist will work to remove it for you. The earlier it is detected, the higher the success rates. Melanoma can be deadly since it can quickly move from your skin to other areas of your body, such as your heart or lungs. However, when it is detected early, the mole can be removed before the disease has a chance to spread.
How Can You Catch it Early?
Inspect your skin on a regular basis. This can give you an idea of the number of moles you have, their size, shape, and their color. If you notice changes in the size, shape or color, you'll want to speak with a dermatologist as quickly as possible. If you have more than 50 moles, you will want to speak with a dermatologist as well. Inspecting your skin doesn't have to take long and can be done once a month with other self-exams to make sure you stay healthy.
How Can You Protect Your Skin?
The biggest way to prevent melanoma is by protecting your skin. Each time you're in the sun, the UV rays contact your skin. When you are going to be outside for more than a few minutes, it's a good idea to apply sunblock to any exposed areas of skin. Large, floppy hats can help protect your scalp, face, neck and shoulders even further. Loose, long sleeve outfits with plenty of air circulation can also help block the exposure of UV rays. Make sure you are prepared every time you go into the sun. Tanning and sunburns can indicate you've been exposed to UV rays, which can cause melanoma. Protect your skin every time you leave your home so you can be sure you're not being exposed to the harmful UV rays.
It's a good idea to keep an eye on your skin and take note of any changes that occur so you can speak with a doctor quickly if you notice anything different. Above are a few ways you can detect moles that may be cancerous, but you still should speak with a dermatologist if you notice any suspicious moles on your body. Skin cancer can be incredibly dangerous, so make sure you protect your skin and speak with a dermatologist as soon as possible if you have any changes in your skin or moles on your skin.