No, I’m not talking about those furry little animals that dig up the garden. I’m talking about those little brown blotches that we all have dotted over our body – beauty spots to some, ugly sunburn marks to others. We’re all told to keep a keen eye on our moles, because in rare cases they can be signs of an infection or, at worst, skin cancer. But when should you really be worried? This guide should hopefully help to clear things up.
Which moles should you worry about?
Moles comes in all shapes, sizes and colours. Most are brown or grey, and the majority are flat. They are made up melanocytes – cells that give skin its colour and pigment. Most melanocytes are spread evenly through the skin, but occasionally they grow into clusters, which in turn become moles. Adolescence and pregnancy can cause them to darken.
The types of moles that should be of concern are ‘dysplastic moles’, which can turn into melanomas (cancerous moles). The more dysplastic moles you have, the larger the risk of developing a melanoma. You should look out for moles that are noticeably bigger than all the rest, uneven in colour or smudgy in shape. Moles that change shape or become itchy or start to bleed should also be of concern.
What to do if you think you have a melanoma?
Go and see your doctor, of if you’re worried about wasting their time, talk to a doctor online who is able to set up a video chat. Show them the mole that you are worried about and they will be able to properly diagnose it for you.
You may be recommended to a dermatologist who can provide a full body scan. This unfortunately means getting every part of your body examined (even the parts where the sun doesn’t shine), but if you want to prevent any risk or have previously suffered from skin cancer or problems regarding melanomas, it is your safest bet. Sometimes it may take a year to get the all-clear. In the meantime keep doing regular examinations of your body to make sure there are no changes.
If you don’t get the ‘all clear’
Don’t worry! This doesn’t automatically mean you have the big C.
You will probably be first invited in for a biopsy, which will be able to further tell if a particular mole is benign or a melanoma. A small part of the affected skin will be taken and examined for further detail.
If treatment is needed, know that a melanoma is almost always curable when caught early. The doctor may have to take a larger area of skin than the mole covers just to clear margins.
It is important to know that most moles aren’t melanomas and that sometimes the weirdest-looking of moles can in fact be perfectly healthy. Still, it always pays to check and if you ever have a hunch that one is not right, it is always best to seek medical reassurance.
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