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I Have Several Moles on My Body: Should I Be Concerned?

Moles (particularly those on your face and hands) certainly aren’t a fashion statement, but are they also an automatic ticket to the dermatologist's office?

Not necessarily. 

We at Sanford Dermatology know that the threat of skin cancer looms over us all, so we’d rather you be overly cautious about your moles than blissfully ignorant. But we also don’t want you fretting over every spot and speckle on your skin. 

Here, we take a closer look at what’s going on with your moles and when it’s really time to make an appointment with one of our experts. 

Where did my moles come from?

Moles (you may hear a medical professional call them nevi) are one of the most common types of skin growth. They typically show up during childhood when clusters of pigment-forming cells called melanocytes concentrate to create small dark spots. 

Moles can appear virtually anywhere on your body, but their most popular hangouts are your scalp, armpits, fingers, toes, and even under your nails. 

Why do I have so many moles? 

You might think you’ve been endowed with a plethora of moles and are therefore at a default risk for skin cancer, but in reality, most people have a lot of moles — 10-45 moles on average. 

You're most likely to develop moles if you have a family history of moles, have a personal history of sunburn or sun damage, are fair-skinned, and/or undergo hormonal changes, namely during pregnancy and puberty. 

When is a mole a concern?

Most of your moles are harmless, and rarely do they become cancerous, but that doesn't mean skin cancer isn’t a threat. 

The more moles you have, the more vigilant you have to be. 

By age 40, you should have all the moles you will get. Over time, moles can change slightly or fade altogether. However, some changes in moles can indicate skin cancer. 

That small dot on your wrist, cheek, or scalp that hasn’t changed since you first noticed it isn’t our concern — the most alarming mole is a brand-new mole or a mole that changes rapidly. 

It’s easy to catch a rogue mole if you remember your ABCDEs:

Some moles may show only one of these changes; others will undergo all of them. It’s important to remember that any changes in a mole may indicate you have early signs of skin cancer. 

For that reason, we recommend having annual skin check exams with our team and keeping a detailed mole map with descriptions of each mole.

I have a suspicious mole — now what?

Caught a suspicious mole? We should be your first call. We take moles and the threat of skin cancer seriously and conduct a thorough evaluation when you arrive at our office. 

Talk to us about the specific changes you’ve noticed and any accompanying symptoms, including itchiness and bleeding. 

To be certain your mole isn't cancerous, we take a biopsy. Taking a biopsy is relatively painless. We numb your skin, carefully shave off your mole, and send it to a lab for further evaluation. We may cauterize the mole with special electric needles to stop bleeding and destroy leftover problematic cells. 

Shortly after your first appointment, the lab sends their report back. If your mole has turned cancerous, we schedule a follow-up appointment with you to discuss next steps. 

Depending on what type of cancer you have and at what stage, we may need to run more tests to ensure the disease hasn’t spread to other areas of your body. Treatment for cancerous moles usually involves one of the following procedures:  

If we can’t completely remove the evidence of skin cancer with surgery or if the cancer has spread, you may require radiation or chemotherapy. 

Whatever your needs are, our compassionate team walks you through each step of the process. 

If you think you have a problematic mole or you simply want to see us for a routine skin exam, we’d love to get you on our calendar. Call or click today to schedule a consultation at any of our three conveniently located offices serving Greater Sanford, Pittsboro, and Lillington, North Carolina.

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