Almost everyone has at least a mole or two, and a majority of them are harmless. A normal mole is evenly colored – usually tan, brown, or black. Moles are typically smaller than 6 mm in diameter and can be oval or round, or flat or raised. Most moles appear in childhood through young adulthood, although some are present since birth. Moles rarely change, however, can grow as your body grows.
If you notice a new mole has surfaced; a mole changes in shape, size, color, or texture; or a mole looks noticeably different from the others on your skin, these could be an early warning sign of melanoma.
Melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer, accounting for approximately 4 percent of all cases. It is, however, the most deadly type of skin cancer as it can spread rapidly to internal organs and lymphatic system if not detected and treated early. Melanomas can develop anywhere on the skin. On men, the chest and back are the most common areas, and on the legs for women. Other common areas are the face and neck.
If you’re unsure if a spot on your skin is a normal mole or skin cancer, follow the ABCDE rules to determine if melanoma may be present. When you examine your mole, be on the lookout for any of the following features:
- Asymmetry: Half of the mole or spot does not match the other half.
- Border: Irregular, blurred, or ragged edges are present.
- Color: The color isn’t uniform. It may have different shades of tan, brown, or black, and could include patches of pink or white.
- Diameter: The mole is wider than 6mm in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser), although some melanomas can be smaller.
- The mole changes in color, size, or shape.
Other early warning signs can include:
- A sore that isn’t healing
- Redness or swelling outside of the mole’s border
- The pigment of the mole spreads to the surrounding skin
- The area around the mole is itchy, tender, or painful
- Discharge from the mole (i.e. ooze, blood)
Not all melanomas fit the above criteria, so it is important to tell your doctor about any new moles or moles that appear different from the others. It can be difficult to tell the difference between a regular mole and melanoma, so show your doctor any mole that raises concern.
While there is no way to fully prevent melanoma, there are ways to lower your risk. Practice sun safety while outdoors by limiting your exposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays, using sunscreen with 50 SPF, avoiding tanning beds, and checking yourself regularly to spot any new or abnormal moles.
If you think there are any abnormalities, schedule a skin check with Dr. Friedrichs. She can help you better understand what your moles look like so you’re able to detect any changes to existing moles as well as any new ones. The key to curing melanoma, if diagnosed, is early detection and proper treatment.
For the health and safety of our patients, staff, and community, Radiant Dermatology will be temporarily closed for regular medical and cosmetic services due to COVID-19. Throughout this closure, Dr. Friedrichs will be available for urgent medical and surgical appointments and we are using Telehealth for routine medical and follow up appointments. Our knowledgeable staff is also available for your mole-related and other skin questions by calling 815-981-4990.