When should I get my moles checked?

moles checked

Moles are small, pigmented spots on the skin that most of us have and are typically harmless. It isn’t unusual for babies to be born with moles, for new moles to develop during childhood and adolescence, or for moles to become less visible or vanish as we age. They can also darken during pregnancy. The majority of moles are benign, but change in a mole can be due to abnormality and even skin cancer.

In this blog, we will discuss when it might be necessary to get a mole checked out.

Learn your ABCDEs

The ABCDE acronym is a helpful tool to determine if a mole might be worrisome. This represents Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Colour variations, Diameter over 6 mm (about ¼”) or Dark, and Evolution or change.

Familiarising yourself with these indicators is an excellent starting point for self-examinations. However, there are limitations to the ABCDE approach, as it is designed to identify melanomas, but not other types of skin cancer. Even some melanomas may not be detected using this method.

For example, subungual melanomas begin as brown or black streaks beneath a fingernail or toenail and may grow. Amelanotic melanomas also lack the melanin pigment that gives most moles their colour, instead appearing pinkish, red, white, or translucent.

Does one mole look different to the others?

Often, most moles on each person’s body tend to look similar. If a mole appears significantly different from others, it should be considered potentially harmful. Dermatologists sometimes refer to this as an ‘ugly duckling’ lesion. For example, if you have numerous large, dark moles but discover a smaller reddish one, you will want to get it checked out.

Some types of skin cancer manifest in lesions that are not classified as moles. Basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, can appear as a shiny bump in various colours, including seemingly innocuous shades like pink, pearly white, or transparent. Squamous cell carcinoma might also manifest as a scaly patch or a bleeding, open sore.

Getting suspicious moles checked

Alterations in the size or appearance of a mole should be considered a warning sign. It is crucial to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to ensure the mole is not malignant.

You can arrange a mole check consultation with Dr Juliet Williams at any time, during which she will ask about your family history and previous sun exposure before conducting a full skin examination. Any atypical moles or moles exhibiting changes will be examined with dermoscopy and photographed for monitoring purposes.

While most moles are harmless, they can be removed if they catch on clothing, impact your self-confidence, or are highly visible. If your mole has worrying features, Dr Williams will recommend its removal and biopsy. Causes for concern include the appearance of a new mole, a mole becoming itchy, red, or bleeding, irregular mole edges, or changes in shape or colour.