Moles, or nevi (the medical term), can be either embarrassing or a fashion statement to people, depending on the size, color and location. Sometimes we are born with them, or they will develop as we grow up into our middle age. Some are flat while some are elevated, some are dark brown or black while others are flesh-colored or pink. People tend to have a pattern to their moles.
At Michigan Dermatology Institute we take your moles very seriously, as rarely they can transform into melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer. It is important to keep these spots protected from ultraviolet exposure (sun and tanning beds) and to avoid chronic trauma, as they can bleed and become infected. A thorough evaluation of all of your moles will help determine which ones appear “safe”, and which ones appear “concerning”.
Q: What exactly are nevi?
A: Moles/Nevi are a localized overgrowths of the pigment-making cells in the skin. They collect in certain family with a genetic susceptibility, but can develop as a result of ultraviolet exposure (sun and tanning beds). Every skin complexion can develop moles, though they are more prevalent in lighter skin types, they tend to mature and go away over time.
Q: Does taking off all of my moles prevent skin cancer?
A: While this was a consideration many year ago, now-a-days we know that even if you have all of your moles removed you can still get skin cancer, in particular melanoma. It is important to monitor your moles, and your skin, to detect subtle changes to the spots. If you notice growth, color change or it doesn’t “seem” right, we recommend an in-person evaluation.
Q: What are the ABCDE’s that I’ve read about?
A: These are the important changes in moles that concern us for skin cancer, in particular melanoma.
A stands for asymmetry, meaning an uneven design to the spot.
B stands for borders, meaning the edge is not smooth and regular.
C stands for color, having different colors than any of the other spots are worrisome.
D stands for diameter, the larger spots are usually the more concerning ones.
Lastly, E stands for evolving or evolution, meaning the spot has been changing over time (this could be with color, elevation, shape, size, or new symptom of bleeding, crusting or itching).