Moles are clusters of pigmented cells that people commonly get in childhood or adolescence. They’re generally harmless and appear as small, dark spots. If you have moles, you’re likely to develop 10-40 of them as you get older.
On rare occasions, moles may become cancerous, so looking for changes in your moles is extremely important for your health. If you’re concerned about a mole, you can find help with Dr. Javier Zelaya and the team at Skinworks Dermatology, with three New York City locations.
Let’s examine what to look for to determine if a mole might be cancerous and what can be done about it.
How you get moles
Melanocytes are skin cells that are distributed throughout your skin and produce melanin, which gives your skin its color. Clusters of melanocytes form moles.
Moles are typically brown spots, but they can be tan, black, red, blue, or pink. Moles can be smooth, flat, wrinkled, or raised, and some even have hair growing from them. They’re usually oval or round and are generally about a quarter inch in diameter.
The ABCDE method
Moles are often harmless, and they even may go away on their own over time. However, if you notice changes in your moles, it may indicate melanoma, a dangerous type of skin cancer. The usual way to check for changes in moles is the ABCDE method:
Check to see if one half of the mole is different from the other.
See if the outside of the mole lacks definition or is in any way irregular.
Look for color changes in the mole or if there are multiple colors.
Examine the size of the mole. If it’s larger than a pencil eraser, it may be cause for concern.
If your mole changes in size, shape, or color over time, seek medical attention.
The ABCDE method is helpful to catch early signs of melanoma, and early treatment is key to preventing this dangerous form of skin cancer from posing any further risks.
Treatment if you have signs of melanoma
In addition to watching for the aforementioned changes, you can take other basic steps to protect your skin. Avoid overexposure to UV rays and tanning beds, use sunscreen all year round, and cover up in direct sun.
If you’re diagnosed with melanoma, multiple treatments are available, including:
- Surgical removal
- Targeted therapy
- Radiation therapy
Any treatment depends on the extent of damage to your skin caused by the cancer and the potential risk to other parts of the body. A thin melanoma may be removed with a biopsy, and minor surgery is a typical treatment if it’s caught early.
Your mole may be completely harmless, but if you notice any changes, make an appointment with Dr. Zelaya to get it looked at. Call one of our Skinworks Dermatology locations in Maspeth, Chelsea, or Park Slope today, or book your appointment online.