Moles are a very common skin growth and most of us have at least a few of them. In most cases they are nothing to worry about and we tend to forget we have them.
Unfortunately, moles can also be a sign of skin cancer or pre-cancer. Whereas most are harmless, if you notice any changes in a mole, or develop a new one that looks different to the rest, it could be something you need to speak to a doctor about. It may well be nothing to be concerned about but with moles it pays to be vigilant.
Existing moles can suddenly grow, develop hairs where there were none, change color or fade. Most of us are still developing new moles into our forties! Some changes are nothing to worry about but others can be a sign that something isn’t right. Finding cancerous moles early on is absolutely key to treating skin cancer effectively. Don’t ever be worried about whether you’re wasting your doctor’s time by asking advice about a mole – they are happy to put your mind at rest and would much prefer you to come in needlessly than not come in until it’s
too late. The early signs of a melanoma (a serious type of skin cancer) that you should get checked out include:
Asymmetry. The mole looks uneven and one half doesn’t seem to match the other.
Border unevenness. The outside edges of the mole are ragged or blurred.
Color. If the mole isn’t the same color all over it could mean there’s something changing. It could be anything from tan, brown, and black or even red, white, and blue but if the colours are blotchy, it’s a warning sign.
Diameter. If it’s larger than 6 mm (0.2 in.) , or suddenly starts to grow, it’s something you need to get checked out.
Evolution. Any noticeable changes in its size, shape, symptoms (itching or tenderness), surface (bleeding), or color.
Keep an eye on your moles – or ask someone else to – and carry out a skin self-exam regularly to identify any suspicious skin growths.
You need to be examining your moles monthly and if possible, visit a skin clinic for an expert to check them over once a year just to be safe.
What to check for:
Look at your skin, including the scalp, and any existing moles, freckles, skin tags or other skin growths to check for changes in color, shape, size, and appearance.
If you’ve had any minor injuries, check the skin to see if it’s properly healed.
If you notice a changing or suspicious skin growth, get your doctor to check it out right away. It might be easily removed and nothing to worry about (most growths are easily taken off) and this will stop it from growing and irritating the skin around it, getting caught on your clothes or even spreading to other areas of the body.
Finding and treating skin cancer early can help prevent problems, so keep an eye on your skin lumps and bumps!