Moles are a common skin condition that are considered a symbol of beauty when located somewhere on the face. Although moles rarely cause any problems, it is important to examine your moles regularly for any signs of possible melanoma. Those that spend a large amount of time in the sun or have a family history of melanoma are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer, and catching the disease early is the best way to ensure a successful treatment outcome. If you are worried about one of your moles or simply want to know how to perform a self-examination for melanoma, the following guide will help you decide when to seek treatment from a qualified dermatologist.
What Are Moles?
Moles are the result of a cluster of pigment cells growing on the surface of the skin. Moles can be present at childbirth or develop later in life. Some moles can fade away over time as well as change their shape and color. Common moles are usually brown or pink in color, circular or oval shaped and are slightly raised above the surface of the skin. A dysplastic nevus is another type of mole that is often flat, scaly and may have an irregular border. While most dysplastic nevi are harmless, researchers agree that people with a large number of this type of mole have a greater chance of developing melanoma.
What Are the Warning Signs of Melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in a person’s skin cells. Most doctors and dermatologists use the “ABCDE” checklist when examining a patient’s moles for possible signs of melanoma.
- Asymmetry – Moles should be symmetrical with one side perfectly matching the other half
- Border – Moles should have a clear border that is not blurred or irregular
- Color – The majority of moles are one color and not different shades of brown, black, blue, white or red
- Diameter – Moles should be less than 5mm in diameter
- Evolving – Moles should not change color, shape, size or texture
If one or more moles exhibit any of the warning signs on the list, then the patient is advised to seek immediate treatment. Moles that suddenly start to bleed or ooze should also be brought to the attention of one of our expert dermatologists.
How To Perform A Self-Examination
Melanomas that are caught early are relatively easy to treat, so a regular self-examination of the skin is the best way to protect yourself against skin cancer. To perform a self-examination, start by checking your face in a mirror for moles remembering to examine behind your ears and inside your mouth. Use your fingertips to check under your hair for any moles or you can use a hairdryer to move the hair out of the way. Stand in front of a full length mirror, and check your entire body using a second mirror to check your back if necessary. Pay close attention to any existing moles you have, and check if they have changed their color, shape or texture.
If you are worried about one of your moles, then contact one of our dermatology centers to arrange a consultation with a licensed dermatologist. Our trained skin pathologists will provide surgical services remove a small portion of the mole and examine it under a microscope to determine whether or not it is malignant melanoma. If the mole is found to be cancerous, we will provide surgical services required to remove the mole and any cancerous cells. Melanoma survival rates are as high as 99% for cases where the cancer has not spread below the skin, so fast diagnosis is the best way to ensure a full recovery.