A mole is a common skin lesion. Almost everyone has at least one mole. Darker skinned people tend to have fewer moles than fair skinned individuals. Moles typically appear during childhood or adolescence, but new ones can develop overtime. Moles can grow during childhood and these changes can be expected. Moles that are acquired later in childhood or in their adult life typically follow sun exposure. Adults who have changing or growing moles should have them evaluated, as this could be a sign that the mole is no longer normal. Developing moles depends on multiple factors including, genetic factors, sun exposure, and immune status.
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How Moles Form
Melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its natural color, is produced by melanocytes. When skin is exposed to the sun, or tanning beds, melanocytes produce more melanin, which produces more pigment. This is what gives the skin a tan. Sometimes, clusters of melanocytes and tissue come together to form a mole (nevus) or moles (nevi).
Appearance: The ABCDE’s of Melanoma
Moles can vary in appearance and number from person to person. Moles can be on any part of the body. They can be raised, flat, pink, flesh colored, brown, or even blue. Moles can vary in size as well.
Overtime, some moles can change and progress into melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Not every mole turns into melanoma, but recognizing the signs of a changing mole can save a life. Early detection of melanoma is key.
Using the following pneumonic can be helpful in recognizing changes.
A= Asymmetry. Is the mole the same on one side versus the other?
B= Borders. Does the mole have irregular edges? Is the mole a different shape that other moles?
C= Color. Does the mole have different colors?
D=Diameter. Is the mole larger than a pencil eraser?
E=Evolving. Is the mole changing?
If the mole has any of these features, then a dermatologist should evaluate it.