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Most are harmless, but in some cases, the cells become cancerous. Because early detection is so important when it comes to skin cancer, our team recommends comprehensive skin checks annually, self-check skin exams monthly, and mole biopsies. Early detection of skin cancer can save lives.
Moles Q & A
Most men and women have between 10-40 moles, although you can certainly have more. They develop when groups of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes start to pile up on top of each other. Even though most aren’t a cause for concern, they do have the potential to turn into malignant melanoma. Some of the most common causes or risk factors of mole development include:
- Frequent sun or tanning bed exposure
- A family history of moles
- Being caucasian or fair-skinned
Since they can quickly become abnormal and turn into skin cancer, it’s crucial to understand the warning signs.
When is a mole considered abnormal?
To help you evaluate them at home between skin checks visit our page on self-check skin exams for on your skin. Remember the ABCDE acronym for abnormal moles:
- Asymmetrical shape
If half of your mole is different than the other side, it could be an indicator of cancerous cell production.
The borders should be smooth and even. If you notice irregular, notched, or scalloped borders, it’s time to have them checked out.
Moles should be consistent in color — most are dark brown. If you find that yours are changing color and continue getting darker, or if yours have an uneven color, they could be problematic.
They should be small. It’s important to have any mole evaluated that gets bigger than 1/4 inch.
Watch for moles that are evolving and changing in size, height, shape, or color. In some cases, abnormal moles itch or bleed, too.
Do I need to have them removed?
You typically only need to have them removed if any of the above issues are apparent — like a change in size or color. Our team can remove them in the office by thoroughly numbing your skin and gently shaving off the worrisome tissue.
Next, we send your specimen to the lab for further evaluation to see if it contains any cancerous cells. If yours are cancerous, you may need additional testing to ensure the cancer didn’t spread to other areas, like your lymph nodes.
Once you’re fully treated, we usually recommend coming in at least once a year for comprehensive skin checks. If you have a history of abnormal moles, we may want to see you more frequently.