Moles are common.
Almost every adult has a few moles and those who have light skin often have more moles. You should not be overly worried about your moles, but a type of skin cancer, melanoma, can grow in or near a mole. If caught early and treated, melanoma can be cured. The first sign of melanoma is often a change to a mole — or a new mole on your skin. Checking your skin once a month — or more often if your doctor says — can help you find melanoma early when it is easy to treat. If a mole starts to grow, itch, or bleed, make an appointment to see a dermatologist.
Moles in children: What parents should know
Moles on a young child’s skin are generally nothing to worry about. It is normal for new moles to appear during childhood and adolescence. Moles will grow in proportional size as the child grows. Some moles will darken, and others will lighten. These changes are expected in children and seldom a sign of melanoma.
A mole on your body has these traits:
1 color – Often brown, but a mole can be tan, black, red, pink, blue, skin-toned, or colorless
Round or symmetrical in shape
Flat or slightly raised
Looks the same from month to month
Your moles may not look alike. Even in the same person, moles can differ in size, shape, or color. Moles can have hair. Some moles will change slowly over time, possibly even disappearing. Moles can appear anywhere on the skin including the scalp, between the fingers and toes, on the soles and palms, and even under the nails.
If you see a mole or new spot on your skin that has any of the ABCDEs of melanoma, see a dermatologist immediately.
ABCDEs of Melanoma
How do dermatologists tell whether a spot is a mole?
A dermatologist’s trained eye can often tell whether a spot is a mole.
How do dermatologists treat moles?
Most moles do not require treatment. A dermatologist will remove a mole that bothers a patient (rubs against clothing, etc.) or could be skin cancer. If a patient finds unattractive it can be removed for cosmetic purposes. A dermatologist can remove a mole during the office visit or sometimes requires a second visit. A dermatologist will either surgically excise the area by cutting out the entire mole and stitching the skin closed or shave with a surgical blade to remove the mole at the surface. Never try to shave off a mole at home because if the mole contains skin cancer, some of the cancer cells can stay in the skin and even spread. Also, you can disfigure your skin, causing a scar, or cause an infection.
If you see a mole on your skin that is changing, itching, or bleeding, make an appointment to see a dermatologist. These could be signs of melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Caught early, melanoma can be cured. Without treatment, melanoma can spread. This can be deadly.
Perform self-exams of your skin. A self-exam can help you catch melanoma early. To help you learn how to check your skin, know what to look for, and draw what you see on your skin, go to this form from the American Academy of Dermatology.
Protect your skin from the sun. It is believed that being out in the sun increases the number of moles on your skin and we know that the sun causes skin cancer. Tanning beds and sun lamps also cause skin cancer and moles to change. An easy way to reduce your risk of getting skin cancer is to avoid tanning and wear sunscreen every day.
If you have 100 or more moles, be sure you have a dermatologist. If you have familial atypical multiple-mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome or a similar medical condition you should have a full-body screening every 3 to 6 months, beginning at puberty. Your dermatologist may recommend less-frequent screenings if your moles are stable (not changing).