Skin is never flawless like the models in magazines, who are Photoshopped into unrealistic perfection. Most of us have a few (or even many) imperfections in our skin. And in the vast majority of cases, those minor flaws indicate nothing bad regarding our health.
But occasionally, you might begin to wonder about a mole. It might be one you’ve had for decades, or maybe it’s relatively new, but something about it just doesn’t look quite right. Should you be concerned about the possibility of skin cancer? And should you get that mystery mole removed?
That will depend upon your doctor’s opinion, of course. Any time you’re concerned about a strange mole or other skin blemish, definitely ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a dermatologist. But in the meantime, here’s what you should look for, regarding moles that could indicate a more serious problem.
Moles are simply a collection of pigment cells, called melanocytes. Moles are typically benign growths, meaning the cells only multiply when needed and it’s not out of control or harmful in any way.
But sometimes a mole becomes what we call “atypical”, meaning the cells begin to multiply at an abnormal rate. It’s not necessarily cancer at this stage, but it could be a warning sign that you’re at risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Learn the ABCDEs of moles. If a mole is potentially abnormal, you might notice one or more of the following signs. The mole is…
- Borders are jagged or uneven
- Color changes or the mole is multicolored
- Diameter is larger than 6 millimeters
- Evolving – the size, shape, or color is changing
If you notice any of these signs in a mole, do talk to your doctor right away. But don’t panic; typically, abnormal moles are removed, just in case, but they don’t always signal that anything serious has happened. Your dermatologist will examine the mole, perform a biopsy, and inform you of the next steps that are needed.