Some moles (also known as nevi) are completely harmless, and others can lead to skin cancer. What may look like a common mole could actually be very dangerous. Regular mole screenings ensure that abnormal growths are detected before they spread and become hard to treat. The earlier skin cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better. It’s much easier to completely remove cancerous growths in the early stages, and it’s also less likely that the growth will spread to other parts of the body if treated early.
Warning Signs of a Dangerous Growth or Mole
It is possible for a mole to turn into skin cancer, so keep a close watch on your moles. Immediately visit a doctor if you notice any changes in appearance. Warning signs that a mole has become cancerous include color changes, changes in size both big or small, texture, hardness, itchiness, and bleeding or oozing.
After a mole screening, your dermatology specialist may determine that one or more of your moles should be biopsied or removed. Depending on the type of mole and whether skin cancer is present, your provider will create a treatment plan for your particular case.
Types of Moles
A regular mole is the result of the growth of melanocytes. Many people have below 50 moles on their bodies. These growths are usually found above the waist in areas exposed to the sun. They are seldom found on the scalp, breast, or buttocks.
Formally known as dysplastic nevi, atypical moles look different from common moles. They are usually bigger than common moles, and their color, surface, and borders may be different. Atypical moles can be mixed with variations of different colors. They typically have a flat smooth, slightly scaly, or pebbly surface. They also have irregular edges that often fade into the surrounding skin.
Some people only have a few atypical moles, while others have more than 10. People who have multiple atypical moles usually also have a greater number of common moles. Most atypical moles do not turn into skin cancer, remaining stable over time. Researchers estimate that the chance of skin cancer is about ten times greater for someone with more than five atypical moles compared to someone who has none. The more atypical moles a person has, the greater the chance of developing skin cancer.
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