mole

Moles & Skin Cancer

Come and visit our clinic for a screening of your skin and moles. It is important that everyone should check their moles, especially if you have developed new moles or a close relative has a history of melanoma. The vast majority of moles are not dangerous, however they can become cancerous.

What is a common mole?

A common mole is a growth on the skin that develops when pigment cells (melanocytes) grow in clusters. Most adults have between 10 and 40 common moles.

Common moles are usually distributed above the waist on areas exposed to the sun. They are seldom found on the scalp, breast, or buttocks.

Although common moles may be present at birth, they usually appear later in childhood. Most people continue to develop new moles until about age 40. In older people, common moles tend to fade away.

What does a common mole look like?

A common mole is usually smaller than about 5 millimeters wide (about 1/4 inch, the width of a pencil eraser). It is round or oval, has a smooth surface with a distinct edge, and is often dome-shaped. A common mole usually has an even color of pink, tan, or brown. People who have dark skin or hair tend to have darker moles than people with fair skin or blonde hair.

Key Points From National Cancer Institute at NIH:

A common mole (nevus) is a small growth on the skin that is usually pink, tan, or brown and has a distinct edge. People who have more than 50 common moles have a greater chance than others of developing a dangerous type of skin cancer known as melanoma. Most common moles do not turn into melanoma.

A dysplastic nevus is an unusual mole that is often large and flat and does not have a symmetric round or oval shape. The edge is often indistinct. It may have a mixture of pink, tan, or brown shades. People who have many dysplastic nevi have a greater chance than others of developing melanoma, but most dysplastic nevi do not turn into melanoma.

If the color, size, shape, or height of a mole changes or if it starts to itch, bleed, or ooze, people should tell their doctor. People should also tell their doctor if they see a new mole that doesn’t look like their other moles.

The only way to diagnose melanoma is to remove tissue and check it for cancer cells.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is a growth of skin cells that had gotten out of control and started invading surrounding structures. Most common skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma, although there are numerous other malignancies that may develop within skin. Melanoma is by far the deadliest of the 3 most common skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma can also be deadly as it is capable of metastasizing to distal organs as well. Basal cell carcinoma is “locally invasive”, i.e. it will invade surrounding tissues locally producing an ulcer, but does not usually metastasize.

Most dangerous of all skin cancers is malignant melanoma.

Certain pigmented moles are at a higher risk for converting to this very life-threatening cancer, especially on sun-exposed areas of the body such as legs and face, so be sure to check for changes in your moles regularly. Table below summarizes some of the frequent signs to be particularly aware of:

The legs are the most common area of the body in which women get malignant melanomas (the deadliest skin cancer).
Be vigilant and check regularly for any changes in colour, size or shape of moles. Skin cancer can occur anywhere, so it’s important to check your skin regularly.

Changes in moles are not always obvious, and there are many exceptions to the “rules”, so do not hesitate to ask your doctor if you have any concerns.

FAQs

  • Which ones should you worry about?
    Moles to worry about are those that look different to other existing moles

Book a free consultation today. Call us at 604-284-5501 if you have any questions. Our friendly trained staff will help you every step of the way.