When a Doctor Should Check Your Moles

Most of us have them, small pigmented cells on our skin that are known as moles. They may appear alone or in clusters. Most moles change a little and size and appearance over the years, and most are harmless. However, there are warning signs that indicate when it is time to have your moles examined by a doctor.

Some moles are a type of melanoma, skin cancer that can be life threatening. If you have a suspicious mole it is important that you have it checked by a doctor immediately.

Doctors are most concerned with moles that appear different that other moles on the body or moles that suddenly appear after the age of 20. (Although there are some exceptions to moles over 7mm that appear at birth.)

Keep an eye on moles and if you see a change in a mole's color height, size, or shape it is time to have it checked by a doctor. Pay special attention to moles that are exposed to continuous sunlight. Moles that bleed, ooze, itch, or are tender should be examined by a physician.

The Doctors television program presented an ABCDE Warning Signs of Melanoma to help monitor and manage moles and mole growth and change. The warning signs include asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolving. Each of these is explained below.

Warning Signs that Moles may be Melanoma

Asymmetrical Moles.

In general, moles that are harmless are symmetrical. Looking at a line down the center of a mole would create what appears to be mirror images. If one side is larger or misshapen the mole should be checked by a physician.

Pay attention to the boarder of your moles.

Like the symmetry requirement, the border of the mole will generally be even and smooth if it is harmless. If the mole has uneven boarders, making it asymmetrical, appears scalloped or notched it is time to consult a doctor.

What color is your mole?

Moles appear in a wide variety of colors. Each mole, however, should be uniform in color. If a mole has varying shades of brown, black, or red it should be examined by a doctor.

Take note of how large your mole is.

Moles appear on the skin in many different sizes. Some harmless moles can be large, but in general if you have a mole that is larger than 7mm, or the size of a pencil eraser, it should be checked out by a doctor.

Has your mole evolved and changed?

Moles that change in size, color, or height should be seen by a doctor.

While most moles are harmless, any mole that meets the above criteria should be seen by a doctor. Aberrant moles may turn into melanoma, which is a life threatening form of skin cancer.

How to Check Skin Moles to Detect Melanoma

To detect on time melanomas or skin cancers doctors advice that we check the appearance and development of moles on our skin. That dark or reddish spots can be a sign of skin cancer, and we must remember that the worst melanomas grow very fast, becoming fatal in a heart beat.

Doctors talk about the ABCDE's of skin mole checking; this is a way to figure out the difference between normal moles and the bad or cancerigenous ones. We should look for these factors: A for asymmetry (when the shape of the mole is not round or symmetric), B for border irregularity (when the borders of the mole are not clear), C for color changes (this is very important, some moles change color, as from brown to red, and we don't see it), D for the mole having a diameter (the size of the mole) bigger than a pencil eraser, and E for its evolution, any change that we see in the mole.

Specialists had lately added another factor to check to the list, something else that we have to be aware of when we exam the moles in our skin: we need to go to the doctor if we see that we have a mole that is different from the other ones. Skin moles normally look the same in one person's skin. When we find a mole that has a different color, shape or size than the others we have, we have to check it out. The moles in one person's skin tend to feel the same way as well; they normally have the same texture. It is like we are searching for a mole that doesn't look that belongs to the same family than the others we have in our skin.

We should check our skin to see if we have new moles or if our old ones have change every month. We must remember that a fast detection and diagnose is key to survive melanoma, one of the most dangerous types of cancer.

Moles-Usually Harmless, but Take No Chances

The average person has anywhere from a total of ten to forty moles, with the number varying over time, as new ones can come into being and old ones disappear. Moles have a lifespan of approximately fifty years, and the majority of them are completely harmless. However, some moles, or nevus as they are known in medical circles, can become cancerous, and keeping a close eye on moles is vital in detecting some forms of skin cancer.

Cells called melanocytes manufacture a natural pigment that the skin gets its color from-melanin. Melanocytes lie in the top layers of the skin; when they grow in clusters they combine to form a mole. Researchers have yet to identify why moles come into existence and if they even have a purpose, but they do feel that they are determined before birth as to where they will wind up. Moles are most often a dark brown hue, but they can also be skin colored as well. Moles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and usually show up during the first twenty or so years of a person's life. Exposure to the sun seems to increase the number of moles, and can also make them darker.

When a mole first forms, it is flat and looks a lot like a freckle, tan in color. They can also be pinkish, black, or brown, and as time passes moles will normally get bigger in area. Some moles develop hairs within them, some become raised, and others get lighter in color or fade away altogether. Congenital levi are moles that are present at birth, an occurrence that happens to one in one hundred infants. Large moles, present from the get-go, have a higher risk of turning cancerous; those bigger than four inches in diameter bear constant scrutiny as the years pass. At some point, moles this big may need to be removed to alleviate the risk of malignant melanoma, a deadly type of skin cancer. Atypical moles are moles that are larger than a quarter of an inch and irregular in shape. Atypical moles have a tendency to be hereditary and have a light exterior border with a darker brown middle. They go hand in hand with an elevated risk of skin cancer. A large number of moles on one person are also a potential red light as far as cancer is concerned.

If you develop a new mole as a young adult, notify your doctor so it can be examined to determine if there is a problem. People should have a skin examination every three years as a rule of thumb, so your physician can spot any irregularities, especially with moles. When a mole is suspected of being cancerous, a tissue sample will be taken from it and looked at. If the fear of cancer is proven true, it must be removed. Moles will generally not reappear once they are eliminated, but occasionally they can, which should make you head back to the doctor to have it once again eradicated. Doctors can take a mole off in different ways. Shave excision is the name for the procedure in which a mole is shaved off with a small blade after the area has been numbed. A punch biopsy describes an operation where the mole is removed with a small device similar to a cookie-cutter, and excisional surgery gets rid of the mole by cutting it out, along with a small area of skin around it. Almost all the time these procedures can be done in your doctor's office.

Dermatologists have what they call the A-B-C-D method of examining moles to detect melanoma and skin cancers. The American Academy of Dermatology says that A is for Asymmetrical shape in moles, where one half of a mole differs greatly in shape from the other half. B stands for an irregular Border of a mole, when the outer edges of a mole are ragged, notched, or seem blurred. C means look for changes in Color, where the mole's color is not uniform throughout, or it is multi-colored. D is for Diameter, with any mole bigger across than a pencil's eraser raising a degree of alarm. Any mole that fits these categories should be checked by a doctor to rule out melanoma or skin cancer.

Irritation of a mole will not cause it to turn cancerous, so if it is in a location where it could be shaved over, it is safe to do so. For cosmetic reasons, some moles that contain hairs can be made less unsightly by clipping the hairs close to the surface or having them removed totally by means of electrolysis or a laser technique. Some moles can be covered or disguised with make-up if you do not want them removed, and there are special products on the market designed to make blemishes less noticeable. To lessen the possibility of moles becoming cancerous, try to avoid the time of day when the ultraviolet rays of the sun are most intense, usually from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon. Use proper sunscreen and follow the directions, and wear clothing that affords you protection from ultraviolet rays, such as long sleeves. If you cut a mole or it is subject to any type of trauma and fails to heal, see your physician at once, to be on the safe side.

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