Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, with melanoma being the most deadly skin cancer. Many people develop skin cancer because of genetics, while others can increase their risk of melanoma simply by having too much exposure to UV light. Catching cancer early is one of the best defenses, and moles can sometimes be an indicator of or a risk factor for contracting skin cancer. But not all moles are bad. So, how can you know the difference? The following guide will help you know if you should contact a professional to remove a mole.
Indicators of Malignant Moles
Some people are more likely to develop skin cancer from moles than others. For example, those who have many moles or congenital moles that are quite large are at higher risk. These people should examine moles carefully on a regular basis, as changes to moles can happen suddenly, even if the mole has been dormant for a long time. These are some of the questions you should answer during each exam:
1. Is it uniformly shaped?
Moles can come in many sizes, but benign moles usually are pretty symmetrical. If your mole is round and has a fairly uniform appearance on your skin, you should not have to worry about it. However, of one side of the mole is significantly different in shape than the other side, it is a sign that the mole already has a proclivity for abnormal growth-- abnormal growth is an early sign of cancer.
2. Is the mole defined?
Benign moles are not always the prettiest; they have dark colors and should stand out clearly from surrounding skin. Cancerous or pre-cancerous moles, on the other hand, still present with color contrast, but the pigment change is often not as sudden. If the "lines" are not clearly defined as to when the skin darkens or if the mole has a blurry appearance, it warrants examinations by a medical professional.
3. Does the mole stay the same?
Many moles present almost at birth for some people, while others don't see moles until puberty or even until late in adult years. Birth moles are congenital, which means a person is genetically predisposed to have them. Usually, puberty and adult moles appear because of a combination of hormone changes and sun exposure. However, regardless of when a mole presents itself, it should remain relatively the same size and shape, and it should stay flat or raised. Childhood moles may get slightly larger in proportion to other body growth.
However, moles that grow rapidly in a short period of time or moles that seem to get bigger and smaller over a period of days and weeks should be examined and most likely removed. A growing mole is a sign that the mole has changed or that abnormal growth is starting to develop.
Removal and Recovery
If you do notice any abnormalities with your moles, your first step is to make an appointment with your doctor. If you have a picture that outlines the changes to a mole, these would be helpful to bring. The doctor can biopsy a mole to see if is cancerous before he or she decides that it needs to be removed. The biopsy will help the doctor to know if further cancer treatment will be needed. Usually, just to be on the safe side, the doctor will remove an abnormal mole as a preventative measure, even if the biopsy is clean.
Mole removal is a simple procedure that usually only requires a local anesthetic, freezing, and a few stitches. If your doctor discovers the mole is cancerous, they may run a few tests before deciding on any procedure.
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