Moles are some of the most common growths on skin, and in most cases, they’re completely harmless, painless, and nothing to be embarrassed about. That being said, it’s important to understand what they really are and why some people have them while others don’t — even more importantly, you should know what to look for if you’re worried that a mole is cancerous.
Here’s a quick guide to moles, along with some pointers about when to consult your local dermatologist for an expert opinion if you’re worried:
- Moles are discolorations of the skin and appear as brown or black spots, which are sometimes raised. The color and size of a mole may change over time, but most people begin developing moles during childhood.
- The majority of adults have at least a few moles, and for the most part, these are benign moles (meaning that they’re not cancerous). An atypical mole should be evaluated by a dermatologist to make sure that it isn’t skin cancer; it’s often recommended that if a mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser or appears suddenly during adulthood, that the mole be examined just to be on the safe side.
- So how do you know when to ask a dermatologist about a possibly cancerous mole? If a mole changes size or color substantially, it’s best to have it looked at. Additionally, if you noticed that the mole is inflamed, tender, painful, itchy, or even bleeding, this may be a sign that it has turned into a cancerous growth.
- There are plenty of treatments available for skin cancer when it’s caught in an early stage, so doing a self-assessment is very important! If you notice any new bumps on your skin or any discolorations, it never hurts to make an appointment at the closest dermatology clinic and have your local dermatologist take a look.
- For those self-conscious about non-cancerous moles on their skin, it’s also possible to ask for the mole or growth to be removed if it’s small enough. That being said, so many people have moles that these things are nothing to feel weird about; instead, think of them as details that are completely unique to you!