Those small, fleshy balls and spots on your skin are perfectly normal. Your genes have a lot to do with how many moles you have, and they tend to develop during childhood, teen years, and even early adulthood. Many adults have between 10-40 moles. Some moles are white and pinkish, and others are light brown or black.
Moles form when skin cells grow in clumps rather than an even layer. Once you reach age 25, you should have the most you’ll get — which makes any new mole a potential cause for concern.
It’s best to have your mole looked at by one of our experts at Sanford Dermatology to know for sure whether it’s problematic. If you have a new or suspicious mole, we perform a comprehensive skin evaluation to determine if there’s any reason to be concerned.
You can help us catch a problematic mole early if you know what to look for. When it comes to evaluating your moles, use the ABCDE method, a simple acronym, to remember the five characteristics of a suspicious mole.
Here’s a closer look.
A for symmetry
Moles should be perfectly round and smooth. If one side looks even and the other side is jagged or mismatched in any way, it could be an early sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
B for border
The edges of a normal mole are also smooth and rounded. If the border of your mole looks scalloped or notched, you should have it evaluated. The border should also be distinct from the rest of your kin and shouldn’t appear as if it’s spilled over and spread onto the neighboring tissues.
Skin cancer cells grow erratically, which fortunately makes affected moles easy to spot when they break the mold of a normal, healthy mole.
C for color
Moles come in a few different colors, but mostly, they’re some shade of tan, brown, black, or white. Check that your moles are the same color throughout. A smooth, solid, consistent coloration means your mole is healthy, but flecks of other colors, blends of black and brown, red patches, and half-and-half colors could be cancerous.
D for diameter
Healthy moles are no bigger than the diameter of a pencil eraser (around a quarter inch or 6 millimeters). Anything larger than that, especially if it has color and border changes, should be examined as soon as possible.
E for evolving
Once you reach a certain age, your moles shouldn’t change much. So, a mole that changes in any way (size, shape, color, etc.) is a cause for concern. Look for other changes, such as oozing, bleeding, and itching.
What to do if your mole fails the ABCDE test
If your mole checks off one or more of the suspicious mole boxes, don’t panic. Your first step is to schedule an appointment with our team and have it examined as soon as possible.
We may be able to put your mind at ease simply by looking at your mole, or we may need to perform a biopsy to take a small sample of the tissue and test it for cancer.
If there’s a reason your mole is a threat to your health, we may need to remove it. If we determine you have squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma — two common types of skin cancer — don’t panic; our specialists can perform an advanced technique called Mohs surgery that precisely and efficiently removes all cancerous cells.
When it comes to skin cancer, the best offense is a good defense. Check your moles regularly and get help at the first sign of changes. Call or click to schedule a consultation at any of our three conveniently located offices serving Greater Sanford, Pittsboro, and Lillington, North Carolina.