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A mole or nevus is a collection of melanocytes (pigment cells) on the skin. It is not unusual to have up to 40 moles in the body of an adult, and these are usually found on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun. This is not a rule, because some people do have moles even on their scalps, fingers, soles, and almost anywhere in the body. Some moles are present from birth, while others appear during childhood and even into adulthood. However, they tend to fade away much later in life.

A common mole may be a few millimeters wide, but some can grow to the size of a pencil eraser. The size of a mole tends to be stable, but some can grow slowly over time, while others may disappear. Moles are usually oval or round, with a smooth surface and an even color, which can be tan, brown or pink. However, some people may have red, bluish or colorless moles. Dark-skinned people tend to have darker moles than fair-skinned individuals. Some moles have hair growing on them. They may be flat or slightly raised from the skin.

Some moles do not have a typical shape, color and size. These are called atypical moles or dysplastic nevi. They can even look like melanoma, a type of skin cancer, but they are not. They may have an odd shape, appear larger than a pencil eraser, and have more than one color. They may appear on any part of the body, but more commonly in the trunk.

Most common moles and even atypical moles do not become cancerous or turn into melanoma.

However, it is worthwhile to note that people who have more than 50 common moles in the body or more than five atypical moles have a greater chance of developing melanoma than those who have fewer moles.

When To See A Doctor

If you have any doubts about a new mole or changes in your existing moles, ask your doctor to examine them. You should tell your doctor if you notice any of the following changes in a mole:

  • A change in color
  • An uneven change in size or height
  • A change in shape or texture
  • The surface becomes dry/scaly
  • It becomes hard or lumpy
  • It becomes itchy
  • It begins to bleed or ooze

Signs Of Melanoma

It is important to detect skin cancer such as melanoma as early as possible to be able to get proper treatment and prevent complications. Here are the early signs related to new skin growths or mole changes, which are best remembered using the ABCDE system:

  • A is for Asymmetry, which means that the appearance of one half of the mole does not match the other half.
  • B is for Border, and refers to the irregularity of the edges, which may appear ragged, blurred, or notched.
  • C is for Color, which may not appear uniform. Varying shades of brown, tan, and black as well as dashes of white, red, and blue may be present, making your mole look blotchy.
  • D is for Diameter, wherein the mole grows larger than six millimeter or 0.2 inch in diameter. This looks bigger than a pencil eraser.
  • E is for Evolution, which indicates a change in the shape, size, color, surface or symptoms (like itching, bleeding and tenderness).

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