People tend to either love or hate their moles. For some they are cute 'beauty spots' which help to make people more unique and make them stand out – for others they are just blemishes which often can be large or even hairy. Either way however, it is cancerous moles that are the real danger and this is what we really need to be concerned with. Most people know, moles can change shape in response to several things including sunlight or physical trauma, while other can change seemingly on their own. It is important to keep an eye on this in order to keep a look out for those moles that could potentially be cancerous and need removing before the cancer spreads.
Where Do Moles Come From?
Moles are essentially benign tumours. These come from the 'melanocytes' in our skin – the cells that create melanin, or pigment, and give our skin colour. The real reason melanocytes transforming into moles is something that is not fully understood, but it seems to have a genetic basis as well as being a result of sun exposure.
What Do Healthy Moles Look Like?
Complicating the aim of identifying potentially cancerous moles is the fact that moles all look entirely different. Perfectly healthy moles might be skin tone, brown (most common), completely black, red or in some cases blue. At the same time their shape can also vary greatly and they are not all round. In some cases these moles can also change appearance without this being a cause for concern. This happens as a result often of puberty, of pregnancy, or of exposure to the sun. New moles may also develop at any time.
Some moles however are prone to becoming cancerous. Cancerous moles are known as dysplastic nevi and these can develop into skin cancer. What you are looking for then is change in your moles that wasn't there before, which may not be harmful as we've mentioned, but is worth seeing a doctor over. At the same time there are some warning signs that suggest a mole might be in danger of being malignant. If your mole changes and takes on the following properties this should be taken as a warning to go to a doctor's. These items are listed conveniently as the 'A-D' rule.
A – Asymmetry. This is when a mole changes and no longer has a line of symmetry – as a rule moles should be symmetrical.
B – Borders. If the edges of the mole are blurred or jagged this might be a reason to see a doctor. They might also be surrounded by a red ring.
C – Colour. If the colour has changed, or is patchy, then this can also be a sign of a potentially cancerous mole.
D – Diameter. If the mole increases in size, and particularly if it is over 6mm in diameter, then you should see a doctor.
Also look out for moles reddening, becoming itchy, crusting over or bleeding. In any case if you are unsure then see your GP to be on the safe side.