When your skin cells clump together rather than spreading out evenly across the surface, they form a growth called a nevus — also known as a mole. It’s normal for adults to sport 10-40 of them, and they come with a wide range of characteristics. They can be light or dark, raised or flat, round or oval.
While most moles are benign, some give you important clues about the types of cells within and whether or not they’re cancerous. Here, Dr. Robert Topham and our team of mole experts at Holladay Dermatology & Aesthetics in Holladay, Utah, take a closer look at the three main types of moles and what to look for.
Which type of mole do you have?
Although moles, or nevi as we call them in the medical field, come in countless colors, shapes, and sizes, they all fall into three main categories: congenital, common, or dysplastic.
Any mole you have at birth is called a congenital nevus. This only occurs in about one in every 100 babies, but if you’re one of them, you need to keep an eye on your congenital nevus.
In fact, measure your congenital nevus and monitor any growth. If it exceeds 8 millimeters, it may be a sign of cancer, and you should have Dr. Topham check it immediately. Congenital nevi come with a higher risk of turning into melanoma, a quick-spreading, deadly form of skin cancer.
As the name suggests, common nevi are the most prevalent, and they don’t pose any threat unless they change and develop cancerous cells. Your common nevi may be flesh-toned, pink, tan, or brown. They have a distinct edge that’s smooth and even. Harmless common nevi are no bigger than the diameter of a pencil eraser.
If you have more than 100 moles on your body, and some of them are larger than a pencil eraser, you may have dysplastic nevi. Like congenital nevi, dysplastic nevi put you at risk for melanoma, so don’t waste any time — schedule an appointment with Dr. Topham soon.
Signs your mole may be cancerous — follow the ABCDEs
Moles aren’t contagious, and they generally don’t hurt or itch. If you have a mole that is painful, itchy, bleeding, crusting, or oozing, seek medical attention at Holladay Dermatology & Aesthetics right away.
There’s a simple way to monitor your moles using the alphabet to guide you. Just follow the ABCDEs:
- Asymmetry: Does one half of your mole look different than the other half?
- Border: Are the edges of your mole scalloped, jagged, or irregular?
- Color: Does your mole have mottled or multiple colors or an uneven tone?
- Diameter: Is your mole bigger than a pencil eraser?
- Evolution: Is your mole changing over time?
The bottom line is: Moles that change are suspicious. Whether they get bigger, become more textured, acquire new colors, or take on a different shape, the common denominator is change. You can download an app to help you track any mole changes.
The good news is that Dr. Topham is highly experienced at identifying suspicious moles, testing them for cancer, and removing them when necessary.
If you have any moles that concern you, schedule an appointment with Dr. Topham by calling our friendly staff today at 801-272-4408.