Moles are generally harmless, but it is important to know that melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, can develop in or around a mole, so knowing your moles is essential to catching signs of cancer early.
Types of Moles
There are several types of moles, and some carry greater risks of developing into melanoma than others.
Congenital moles are moles that a person is born with. About 1 in 100 people are born with one or more moles. These moles range in size, color and shape. Congenital moles that are considered large or giant are larger than 20 centimeters, and have been found to carry a greater risk of leading to melanoma. Known medically as Dysplastic Nevi, atypical moles are usually larger than average (more than ¼ inch), and irregular in shape. They may contain uneven colors, or colors not typical of moles. Atypical moles tend to run in families, and they carry the greatest risk of developing into melanoma.
Mole removal surgery is very common and usually painless.
There are two ways to remove moles, and both can be performed at our office. One method for removing the mole is called “shave excision.” The area around the mole is numbed, and a small blade is used to cut around and beneath the mole, removing it. This technique is generally used for smaller moles, and does not require stitches. The other method is called “excisional surgery.” This involves cutting the mole and the surrounding area of skin with a scalpel. This technique is usually used to remove potentially cancerous moles, and does require stitches to close the skin.
The best way to identify potential problems is to know the pattern and placement of your moles, and to examine them often.
When monitoring your moles, remember the “ABCDE” method of self-examination. That is:
“A” stands for asymmetrical shape. Watch for moles with asymmetrical shape, such as two very different looking halves.
“B” is for border. Look for moles with irregular, ragged or blurred borders. This is one of the characteristics of melanoma.
“C” is for color. Look for moles that do not have the same color throughout, or contain shades of brown, black, blue, or white, or red.
“D” is for diameter. Watch for moles that are larger than the eraser of a pencil.
“E” is for evolution. Look for changes over time, such as a mole that grows or changes shape or color.
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