Almost everyone has a few moles on their body. Clinically known as “nevi” (plural) or “nevus” (singular), moles are usually harmless. You might be born with moles, or they could emerge during childhood or adolescence.
New or changing moles can be a sign of skin cancer, including melanoma — the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Fortunately, when caught early, melanoma is relatively easy to treat. However, if you ignore a potential melanoma, it can grow and spread to other areas of your body (metastasize), eventually becoming fatal.
If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, routine skin checks are critical to protecting your health. The team of skin cancer specialists at Ali Hendi, MD, in Chevy Chase, Maryland, wants everyone to know about the warning signs of abnormal moles.
Knowing what to look for and when to talk to a doctor can save your life. And, it’s as easy as your ABCDEs.
The ABCDEs of moles
When you examine your skin at home, and when we provide professional skin checks, we look for asymmetry, borders, color, diameter, and evolving moles.
A normal mole is round and symmetrical, with equal halves at every angle. If one side of a mole appears much darker, has a different shape, or in any other way does not match the other side, it could be a sign of melanoma.
Healthy moles have smooth borders that create a sharp line where the mole stops and normal skin tissue begins. The edges of a melanoma, on the other hand, are irregular, sometimes scalloped or jagged.
Moles develop in a variety of colors, including brown, black, red, or even blue, but are typically one color. Melanomas appear mottled with a variety of colors, ranging from light or dark brown to black, blue, red, or white.
Noncancerous moles are usually smaller than a pencil eraser. Nevertheless, remember that early-stage melanomas are often small, but an untreated melanoma generally increases in size.
Regular moles usually emerge and grow during childhood, eventually darkening, lightening, or fading with age. Once you’re an adult, your moles shouldn’t change in size, shape, or color. Abnormal and potentially cancerous moles often change in color, shape, size, or symmetry. They can also become elevated, start to itch, or bleed easily.
When to schedule a professional skin cancer check
Because the appearance of melanoma can vary greatly, it’s crucial that you come in for a mole check if you notice just one of these potential warning signs of a cancerous growth. The earlier you get a diagnosis and treatment, the better.
But don’t panic if you notice an abnormal mole or new growth on your skin. Changes in a mole don’t always indicate cancer.
We provide thorough examinations of your moles and often perform a biopsy to identify abnormal cells. During a biopsy, we numb the area around the mole and take a small tissue sample of the mole for microscopic examination.
Biopsies are virtually painless and only take a moment. Then, depending on your results, we create a treatment strategy. We might recommend keeping a close eye on the mole if the biopsy is negative for cancerous changes. If your biopsy confirms cancer, we offer state-of-the-art surgical procedures to remove the mole, including Mohs surgery.
Call us today or make an appointment online if you have an abnormal mole that shows signs of the ABCDEs of skin cancer.