Moles are very common and usually benign. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, most adults have at least a few moles that are typically harmless (known as common moles). However, certain types of moles and other factors, like family history, having had melanoma in the past, or having more than 50 moles, can increase your risk of developing skin cancer in the future. Monitoring moles for changes to the size, shape, texture, and color and checking for new growths is an important part of the skin cancer screening process. At Holladay Dermatology & Aesthetics, Dr. Robert Totham and our team of skincare specialists provide skin cancer screenings and a range of services for youthful, beautiful skin at our office in Holladay, Utah.
Moles and your skin cancer risk
No two moles are created equal. Although they tend to vary in size, shape, and even color, a mole’s characteristics can tell you whether they’re harmless, and when you should worry and consult with a dermatologist. Other factors, such as having fair hair and skin, a family history of skin cancer, and the number of moles on your body, can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Like many forms of cancer, skin cancer is very treatable when diagnosed and treated early, especially with melanoma.
In addition to protecting your skin from sun exposure, you should perform monthly self-mole checks to look for anything out of the ordinary, like changes to existing moles or new growths. While they tend to be more common on the back, torso, legs, and arms, moles can grow anywhere, so remember to also check your scalp and even between your toes and fingers for any new growths.
When to see a dermatologist for your moles
The ABCDE method is a helpful way to know what to look for when monitoring your moles:
- Asymmetrical: if you were to draw an imaginary line down the center of a mole, the two sides should mirror each other
- Border: if the edges of the mole are not smooth, round, or well-defined, it may be a sign of a problem
- Color: changes in color or a mole that exhibits multiple colors
- Diameter: a healthy mole should typically be smaller than the size of a pencil eraser
- Elevation: when the mole is raised or elevated off the skin
In addition to suspicious-looking moles, you should also monitor your skin for sores or lesions that are slow to heal.
If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t panic. While they should be examined to rule out any abnormalities, even an abnormal mole doesn’t necessarily mean it’s skin cancer. If you have a mole that looks suspicious, Dr. Totham may recommend a biopsy to determine if further treatment is needed. If you have an elevated risk for skin cancer, our team will discuss your prevention and screening needs at your first appointment.
To learn more about how to perform routine mole checks at home and when to see a dermatologist, contact us today to schedule an appointment.