When to Start Worrying About Your Moles

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Moles are something we pay little attention to unless they appear in large quantities or highly visible places, thus affecting your looks. In the majority of cases, this is perfectly fine because an average adult has about 40 moles on their body.

But the problem is that sometimes moles can be an indicator of skin cancer risk. They can also turn malignant, meaning the mole itself can become cancerous. Therefore, you should be paying attention to these common marks that might appear anywhere on the skin. You just need to understand when to get worried about them.

Types of Moles: Safe and Not So Much

There are three main types of moles you should be aware of:

  1. Birthmarks
  2. Common moles
  3. Atypical moles

First of all, none of these moles, even atypical ones, are dangerous by default. However, there are some risks associated with all of them.

Birthmarks are the moles that people are literally born with. They are generally harmless, but if the mark is big, it has a higher risk of turning cancerous. According to studies, 0.5-0.7% of patients with large birthmarks developed melanoma. Therefore, such marks should be under observation and parents will often need to confer with a dermatologist and decide whether removing the mark is needed to reduce the risks in a child.

Common, or typical, moles are safe if there are under 40 of them on your body. They have an even shape and a single color. They can have different textures but the evenness of the shape and color are the factors that mark them as “typical” and therefore “safe”. They usually appear in the times of hormonal fluctuations and remain unchanged as time goes. If you have over 50 of them, consult a dermatologist as this indicates a higher risk of skin cancer.

Atypical moles aren’t dangerous if they are benign, but they need to be watched closely. According to Dr. Flor Mayoral, who works as a dermatologist in Coral Gables and has experience in dealing with atypical moles, main markers for concern are:

  • Having more than four atypical moles
  • Having a family history of melanoma
  • Having had melanoma in the past

Atypical moles are irregular-shaped and usually have more than one color. And if such marks “run in the family” you might have Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma Syndrome. You’ll need to consult a dermatologist at once and go through regular checks if this is the case.

Can You Keep Your Moles Safe?

Researchers have yet to identify what causes moles to appear exactly. Therefore, it’s impossible to exert any measure of control over them. The few things that we know for sure are that fair-skinned people have more moles and that sun exposure is an important factor in the appearance of new moles in adulthood.

These marks upon your skin can also appear with age as well as during hormonal upheavals, like pregnancy. Note that once there, a mole will remain. If your moles start changing, it’s a definite warning sign that something might be wrong. Therefore, you should consult a dermatologist right away.

That’s why it’s important to make self-observations once a month and “document” all your moles. If some of them appear strange to you, seek professional advice or, at least, take pictures of them so you can get hard evidence of any change.

Moles are also known to appear in response to some drugs, especially ones that suppress the immune system. If you notice the increase in the number of moles after taking any medicine, even antibiotics, you should talk to both your doctor and a dermatologist.

Overall, moles are a warning sign that one should always keep an eye on. They might be completely harmless even if the moles themselves are atypical or numerous. However, it’s always best to be cautious.

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