The average American has between 10 to 40 common moles. These generally cluster above the waist in areas that are often exposed to sunlight. You may develop new moles until about 40, and older people often see common moles fade.
Moles are made from clusters of skin pigment cells and aren’t more likely to develop cancer than normal, surrounding skin, but when they do, the cancer may start with these pigment cells, called melanocytes. This leads to the most dangerous form of skin cancer: melanoma.
At MD Vein & Skin Specialists, we see plenty of skin cancer patients, and we help many others avoid the disease with our mole mapping services. Early detection of melanoma is critical for successful treatment, so keeping an eye on existing and new moles simply makes sense to stay safe.
How melanomas form
While it’s known that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) components of sunlight on exposed skin can start the mutations that develop into cancer, melanoma can also occur in places not regularly exposed to sunlight, anywhere on your body, and even in places like your nose and throat. It’s not fully understood how melanomas form, but risk factors point toward contributing causes. These can include:
- Genetics: melanomas sometimes run in the family
- Recurrent sunburns: a history of severe, blistering sunburns
- Fair skin: light skin means less melanin, leading to less UV protection
- Excessive UV exposure: time spent in the sun or on tanning beds can raise risks
- Weak immune system: the immunocompromised are more vulnerable to skin cancers overall
Exposure to UV light is cumulative. Time in the sun today won’t start cancer on its own, but it combines with every other day with unprotected time under UV light.
Is that mole cancerous?
You’re likely familiar with some of the common moles on your body, and you may even notice changes to some of the more prominent ones. Since melanoma can develop and spread quickly, leaving the discovery to chance isn’t the best strategy.
Between visits to MD Vein & Skin Specialists, you can use an easy-to-remember system for checking your own moles. Called the ABCDE Rule, it’s a five-point way to evaluate moles for cancer risk.
A mole that has different shapes in opposite hemispheres. Most common moles have a regular round or oval shape.
Edges of a problem mole will be irregular, uneven, or blurry, while ordinary moles have clearly defined edges.
Most common moles have a hue that’s similar to your natural skin color, only darker. Suspicious moles can be tan, brown, black, or unevenly colored. Shades of white, gray, blue, or red may also be seen.
Common moles usually don’t exceed the diameter of a pencil eraser, about one-quarter of an inch. Melanomas can start smaller than this, but if you see a mole expanding beyond this size, have Dr. Clement Banda check it.
Common moles are usually consistent. When appearance, size, color, or shape starts to change, a mole becomes suspicious.
When discovered early, melanoma and other skin cancers are easy to treat with high success rates. Call or click to schedule a consultation with MD Vein & Skin Specialists today.