What Are Moles? How Can You Tell If Your Mole Is Cancerous?

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a pretty good amount of moles. I’ve always had one right on my chin that I’ve appropriately called a beauty mark, but I have plenty of others on my hands, arms and places that I’d rather not mention…but you can probably guess from the fact that I’ve decided not to mention it.

Anyway, if you’re anything like me in another respect, you might be a little paranoid about one of your moles becoming cancerous. While most moles don’t become malignant tumors, here’s some important things you need to know about your moles before you freak out.

Moles are brownish or blackish growths that appear on your skin. They occur when your skin cells develop in a cluster as opposed to spread out. Most of your moles sprout up before you’re 30-years-old and it’s pretty normal to have up to 40 moles on your body by that point. Some of your moles might even fade as you get older.

They can vary in size and shape, can be raised or flat and they can darken over the years; they’re even home to a couple of hairs every now and then, so if you have a hairy mole, no worries, it ain’t weird.

So when should you worry about your mole? You should get your mole checked out if it meets any of the criteria of the ABCDE approach:

A: Asymmetrical or irregular in shape

B: Borders that are jagged or blurry

C: Coloring ranges from shades of tan, brown, black, blue or red

D: Diameter is the size of a pencil’s eraser or larger

E: Evolves in shape or color or develops oozing, redness, itching or general pain

If your mole has any of these characteristics, consider seeing a dermatologist or a doctor ASAP. Your mole might be cancerous. I hate to get scary here, but this is serious: Your mole could be a sign of melanoma, which is the deadliest type of skin cancer that you can have, so this isn’t something that can be brushed aside.

A doctor will examine your mole and possibly take a biopsy, a small skin sample. If it is benign, as most moles are, you’re in the clear. Have a party and celebrate the health of that sexy mole of yours. If it is malignant, then you’ll need to get your mole removed.

Mole removal is pretty straight forward and is usually a very short procedure that can be done right in the doctor’s office. Some moles can be surgically “shaved” off by your doctor with a sharp blade; your skin is numbed, of course! Deeper set moles have removed by cutting out the mole and the healthy skin that surrounds it with a scalpel; your skin can be closed up with stitches. Another method includes freezing off the mole with liquid nitrogen.

If a mole that was removed grows back, contact your doctor immediately.

Along with keeping an eye on your moles,  do what you can to prevent your risk of skin cancer by wearing sunscreen regularly and avoiding overexposure to the sun.

Remember, you should always be a little suspicious if you notice a new mole, so you might want to try to document all of your moles through photographs and/or notes. This might sound like a lot of things to do for something that might not even become a problem, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Do you have a lot of moles? Are you as worried about one of them after reading this as I am about one of mine after writing it? Remember when Enrique Iglesias had that mole removed? Tell us in the comments!

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  • Alanna

    There’s this mole near the bend of my elbow that has been there since I was maybe four & has always been the same size but is bigger than an eraser on a pencil… So that isn’t very reliable for me.

  • Sweettreat

    I don’t know if this is like a recognized thing or not…but many Russian people tend to have a LOT of moles. I’m Russian, and all my Russian friends from Russian camp, family, even actors I see on TV–covered in moles! I laughed a little when you wrote it’s normal to have up to 40 moles by age 30, because I’m 17 and I have around 50 moles alone on just my arms, without counting the rest of my body. However, it’s a pain in the butt to keep track of all of them, and watch them all for irregularities 🙁 Thanks for the informative article!

  • Kylee

    My third nipple kinda looks like a cancerous mole. It’s totally not though. That area of my body has only gotten sun like three times ever anyways.