There are many things that make us unique. Our personality, our bodies, and even things we would never have thought about, like our moles. Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered, what is this mole and why is it here?
Chad Housewright, MD, is a dermatologist at Scott & White Northside Dermatology Clinic and helps people who have questions about moles and other skin conditions. He provides guidance on what you should know about your mole.
What are moles?
“The cells in our body that produce our skin color are called melanocytes,” says Dr. Housewright. These melanocytes migrate evenly in our skin when we are formed in our mother’s womb, and when these melanocytes nest together it is a called a mole.”
You may begin to see moles change around puberty and some new moles can appear in adults as well, but a new mole is rare after 35.
If you have a mole it can be difficult to know what it is called, or how it is classified. If you have a potentially dangerous mole it is called an atypical mole, which simply means “not like the rest.”
Dr. Housewrights says an atypical mole:
- Is benign (not cancer).
- Can look like a melanoma, the deadliest form of skin caner.
- May at some point turn into melanoma.
- May be a high risk mole if it: has one half unlike the other, has poorly defined borders, has varied shades of color, is greater than the size of a pencil eraser, or evolves in size, shape, or color.
Are moles dangerous?
Moles can develop anywhere on the skin or mucosal sites of the body. Atypical moles commonly develop on the trunk of your body. They may appear on the scalp, neck, or face. The first thing to analyze when you have a mole is if it is dangerous.
Monitoring your mole with regular skin exams at home is the key to seeing if it needs attention. Dr. Houseright recommends the ABCDE criteria to analyze the size, shape, color and other elements of your mole. He also says if you have more than 50 moles, or one that stands out, bleeds, itches, or is painful, this should prompt an appointment with a physician.
What can I do to take care of my skin?
Dr. Housewright encourages people to take care of their skin by limiting sun exposure to avoid skin cancer.
“Unprotected sun exposure is thought to stimulate the melanocytes in moles and to increase the number of moles,” he says.
Sun exposure is also the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancer. Reducing sun exposure is an easy way to reduce skin cancer risk.
If you notice an uncomfortable or changing mole, contact your primary care physician or schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.