Do you have one or more moles and feel worried it could be cancer? While it’s always good to be vigilant about skin growths, the truth is that the vast majority of moles are harmless. In fact, most adult Americans have dozens of moles scattered across their bodies.
At Manhattan Dermatology in New York City, our dermatologists understand that knowing the difference between a harmless mole and one that signifies something more serious can be difficult. We’ve put this guide together to explain a simple way to evaluate your moles.
Keep reading to learn more about using the ABCDE method to evaluate moles and better understand when to be concerned.
What are skin moles?
Skin moles develop when the pigment-producing cells misfire and create areas of darker pigment. Most moles are dark brown, though they can vary in color and look like circles or ovals on your skin.
Although you can develop moles at any time, they usually begin to appear during childhood and early adulthood. Moles come in all sizes and can have different textures, such as raised or flat and smooth or wrinkled.
While it’s more common to develop moles in areas of the body exposed to the sun, they can develop almost anywhere on your skin. They can also change the way they look over time, and in some cases, moles can fade away.
Keep in mind that while the majority of skin moles are benign, there are types of moles that may be signs of different skin cancers.
How can I evaluate my moles for skin cancer?
Because moles can develop in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, the first step in evaluating your moles is to understand what’s normal for you. Large, raised moles or moles in prominent places may be displeasing, but it doesn’t mean they’re cancerous.
On the other hand, if you develop a mole quickly, have one that changes the way it looks in a short period, or have a mole that starts to be tender, painful, bleeds, or is itchy, it could be a sign that you need a professional evaluation.
Using the ABCDE method, watch for these signs. If you’re not sure about a mole, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. It’s better to catch any problematic moles early for the most effective treatment.
A: Look for asymmetry
Most moles grow evenly in shape, or symmetrically. If one side of your mole grows differently and doesn’t match the shape of the rest, it could be a sign that it’s not a normal mole. We will evaluate it for more information.
B: Check the border
Most benign moles have a defined border, so if you develop a mole that has an irregular, notched, or blurred border, have a board-certified dermatologist evaluate it.
C: Watch the color
As we mentioned, most moles are brown and can come in a variety of colors. But within each individual mole, the color should be consistent. If you notice you have a mole with different colors, or if you notice your mole has pink, red, white, or blue spots, schedule a skin check.
D: Measure its diameter
Keep an eye out for moles measuring greater than 1/4-inch in diameter. Although smaller moles are less likely to be cancerous, moles of any size can be problematic. That’s why having an annual skin check is so important.
E: Evaluate evolving moles
Once they’ve developed, most moles tend to stay the same. Let us know if you see noticeable changes in existing moles. Evaluate them for differences in shape, size, texture, or color as well as any sensations they may cause.
In addition to learning the ABCDE method, schedule routine skin cancer screenings with us at Manhattan Dermatology. This allows us to evaluate your skin and catch any troublesome moles as soon as possible, increasing your odds for successful treatment.
What happens if my mole is suspicious?
We check your skin for anything suspicious, such as moles that have changed in appearance or otherwise appear abnormal. We may remove some or a portion of any suspicious moles to perform a biopsy.
Biopsies are the most effective way we have to accurately diagnose skin cancer. Depending on the results of any biopsy, we then create a personalized treatment plan using the most advanced treatment protocols and dermatological technology.
Are you concerned about a mole? Schedule an appointment at Manhattan Dermatology office nearest you in the Murray Hill or Midtown East sections of Manhattan by calling or booking an appointment online now.