The Importance of Regular Mole Checks: A Guide to Skin Health

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According to the National Cancer Institute, most adults have 10-40 moles on their body. Moles are growths where certain skin cells have accumulated. Since moles are common and can have varied colors and shapes, they are often ignored until something serious happens, like bleeding, itching, or even pain. Most moles remain harmless and are part of the normal makeup of a person’s skin. However, there are moles that can evolve into melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.

Understanding Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and can develop at any age, although more commonly occurs in adulthood. Skin cancer develops because the DNA in cells is damaged. In some cases, the cause of the damage is not known. However, there are several risk factors that can lead to skin cancer, including:

  • Repeated exposure to the sun over a lifetime
  • Frequent use of a tanning bed or tanning lamp
  • Incurring severe sunburns that blister
  • Genetics
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Immunosuppressive medications (eg used in transplant patients)

There are also different types of skin cancer. They include basal and squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma. Basal cell is the most common form, and squamous cell is the second most common. Melanoma develops when cells called melanocytes undergo malignant transformation. Moles and melanoma can sometimes be hard to differentiate on your own. That is why it’s so important to have unusually appearing, new, and/or changing moles checked regularly by a Dermatologist.

ABCDEs of Melanoma

Regularly checking moles for appearance and signs of change is an essential component of good skin health. This will help you spot skin cancer earlier. To make it easy to remember what to look for, everyone should learn the ABCDEs of melanoma.

A is for Asymmetry

A mole that develops an irregular shape and is asymmetrical can be a sign of something more serious.

B is for Border

If the edges of a mole are uneven, scalloped, or jagged, it might be worth having it checked out.

C is for Color

Moles that have more than one color could indicate abnormal cell growth. The colors are typically shades of brown, black, or red. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas may be pink or red or look like scaly spots.

D is for Diameter

Moles that are larger than six millimeters should be examined. Six millimeters is a little smaller than a quarter of an inch or the size of a pencil eraser. Some melanomas occur that are just a few millimeters in size.

E is for Evolving

The last letter to remember is E for Evolving. This means any mole changing shape or size should never be ignored. You’ll also want to look out for itching, tenderness, and bleeding.

Regular Mole Checks Are Essential to Good Health

Everyone should do a self-check of their moles each month. More and more social media users have adopted daily “skincare routines”. Even more important to your health is getting in the habit of regular “skin check routines.” In adults, self-examinations/mole checks should be incorporated into your health calendar. But beyond self-checks, regular dermatology appointments for a skin check are important as well. For a skin check, your dermatologist will be able to:

  • Establish a baseline for future mole checks-photographs are often utilized to monitor.
  • Enable early detection of moles that may be cancerous-dermatoscopes are used to assess patterns of the pigmented lesion.
  • Biopsy suspicious lesions
  • Detect melanoma early so it can be treated quickly
  • Ensures all moles are checked, including those difficult to see, like on your back or scalp.

Once a baseline is established, your dermatologist will make a recommendation about future skin checks and any treatment that is needed.

Schedule A Consultation Today

Our highly skilled team at HMGS Dermatology is well versed at differentiating benign moles from atypical moles and melanoma. Diagnosing melanoma is one of the most critical aspects of Dermatology and we take this task seriously.

Schedule a consultation today by calling our Camden, Marlton, or Hammonton, NJ offices or using our online scheduling tool.