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Moles

Moles

Moles (nevi) are extremely common. Research has shown that certain moles have a higher-than-average risk of becoming cancerous.

They include:
Congenital Mole – When a person is born with a mole (ranging from small to large/giant) it is called a congenital mole (nevus). The large/giant congenital mole has been shown to carry a higher risk of developing melanoma.
Atypical Mole – Also called dysplastic nevi, these moles are generally larger than average (bigger than a pencil eraser) and irregular in shape. They tend to have uneven color with mixtures of tan, brown, red, and pink. People with atypical moles have a greater chance to develop melanoma.
Acquired Mole – moles that appear after birth are called acquired moles and generally not cause for concern. People who have more than 50 to 100 acquired moles, however, have a greater risk for developing melanoma than those with fewer moles.

A mole or nevus 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 number of moles varies from person to person, fair skinned people generally have more moles due to lower amounts of melanin in their skin, and the average adult has between 10 and 40 moles. 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, we need to conduct skin checks regularly (recommended monthly, especially if you have a relative with skin cancer, or at least every three months) to see if our moles have changed.

Types of skin moles:
Not all moles are created equal. Here’s a quick guide to mole types and what they mean for our skin. It’s good to note that moles are categorized by multiple factors, including when they developed, where they are located in 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.

A common mole is one that is usually about 5-6 mm in diameter, has distinct edges, a smooth, dome-like surface and 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.

Congenital Mole – When a person is born with a mole (ranging from small to large/giant) it is called a congenital mole (nevus). The large/giant congenital mole has been shown to carry a higher risk of developing melanoma and should be monitored as you enter adolescence and adulthood. .
Atypical Mole – Also called dysplastic nevi, these moles are generally larger than average (bigger than a pencil eraser) and irregular in shape. They tend to have uneven color with mixtures of tan, brown, red, and pink. People with atypical moles have a greater chance to develop melanoma.
Acquired Mole – Acquired moles are moles that appear during childhood and adulthood. Most of these moles are benign and pose no risk, although sometimes they can turn into cancerous moles with age. This is the most common type of mole, and it is usually caused by repeated sun exposure.

Warning signs that it may be cancerous

Look for these indicators that your mole may be cancerous:
• A change in size (getting larger)
• A change in shape (especially with irregular edges)
• A change in color (especially getting darker or exhibiting multiple shades)
• A loss of symmetry (common moles will be perfectly round or oval and are usually symmetrical)
• Itchiness, pain or bleeding (maybe even forming a scab)
• Crustiness
• Inflammation
• Exhibiting three different shades of brown or black
• A change in elevation (thickening or raising of a flat mole)

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a doctor to have your mole examined.

ABCDEs of Moles
It can be difficult to remember all of the things to look out for during a skin check. That’s why doctors advise using the ABCDE method to make things simpler.

Check your skin for these signs during self-examinations:
• Asymmetrical – the mole is distinctly asymmetrical
• Border – the mole has uneven borders
• Colors – the mole contains at least two distinct colors
• Diameter – the mole is bigger than ¼ inch or 6 mm across
• Enlargement – the mole grows in size over time

Check your mole
The best way to decipher if a mole — of any type — is safe or at risk is to check them frequently. Any changes are usually a sign that the mole should be checked out by a doctor.