Moles come in nearly all sizes, shapes, and colors, and the vast majority are harmless. Many people develop moles during their childhood or adolescence, but some may form in adulthood as well. While these naturally occurring growths are usually nothing to worry about, there are some signs to watch out for. Changes to moles can be a sign of skin cancer, so addressing any changes to your body ASAP is important.
If you suspect that your mole isn’t normal or benign, make an appointment with your doctor to have it examined. They’ll likely refer you to a dermatologist who can perform a biopsy and schedule a mole removal procedure.
What Causes Moles to Form?
Moles form as a result of our skin cells starting to grow in a cluster rather than being spread throughout the entire body. The cells responsible for this are known as melanocytes, which are also responsible for giving our skin pigment.
In most cases, this growth is normal and has no negative affect on your health. However, skin cancers, which are caused by rapid, unnatural cell growth, can lead to the formation of moles as well. Spotting the difference between a normal versus an abnormal mole can be done with this checklist.
What Are the Signs of an Abnormal Mole?
Odd or Uneven Coloring
Moles are different for everyone. Some people develop them on their upper lip while others have them on their arms, torso, or legs. And the color may also vary with the normal ones being brown, tan, or black. However, if your mole isn’t one of these colors, you could potentially have a problem. You need to see your doctor if your mole is a deep red, blue, green, or pink. Any one of these colors—green in particular—can be a sign of an infection or skin cancer. Make sure you always take note of your moles and do regular self checkups. This way you can see if they happen to start changing colors and need to become a concern.
Normal moles are typically either a smooth circle or oval and are no bigger than a pencil eraser. You can assess the general health of your mole using the ABCDE method. A stands for “asymmetry.” If the mole is irregularly shaped, such as with one side larger than the other, then it is asymmetrical.
You should also B for “border,” C for “color,” D for “diameter,” and E for “evolving.” The border of a mole should be smooth, free of any rough edged or notches. In addition to a normal color and size, you should also monitor any changes to a mole.
Evolution in a mole’s coloring, shape, or size may be a warning sign of disease. If you see any differences in your moles, visiting a doctor right away is advised.
If your mole is more than ¼ inch in diameter, you will want to get it checked out. Moles smaller than this can sometimes be a sign of melanoma, however. If you notice that one of your moles is getting larger, schedule an appointment with your doctor to take proper precautions.
Bleeding and Leaking Fluids
Despite their appearance, moles are still a natural part of your body, which means they contain blood. If you have an infection or a wound, it can also leak drainage. Wound drainage is a common concern among many because they think it’s a sign of an infection. It’s actually a result of your blood vessels dilating, which is the first instance of your body healing itself.
That said, it’s normal to see blood and fluid appear if a mole is scratched, squeezed, and picked. But it’s not normal if the mole starts bleeding randomly. Any signs of infection isolated to the mole, including pus or discharge, require medical assessment.
What Should You Do if Your Mole Is Abnormal?
Moles are almost always harmless, but they can be a symptom of a more pressing medical issue. See your doctor at the first abnormality you experience. With medical care, you can have the mole examined and any necessary diagnostics run. In many cases, moles that are non-cancerous but of concern can be removed to reduce your risk of developing cancer in the future. Also, if your mole is cancerous, the sooner they are removed the lower your risk will be of developing a more serious form of skin cancer. Taking charge of your skin’s health will pay off for many reasons.
Mole removal is a common and straightforward procedure. It’s also an outpatient procedure, meaning that you won’t be stuck in the hospital for the recovery. The area will be numbed, and the doctor will remove the entire mole. You may need a few stitches, depending on the mole, and the area will likely be bandaged. Your doctor will give you care instructions and will likely set a followup appointment. While you should be able to get back to your regular activities right away, you may want to talk a day or two of downtime, especially if the mole was in a noticeable area.
Most moles aren’t a big deal. Perhaps they’re just a cosmetic concern. However, on occasion, an irregular mole could be a sign of skin cancer. In these cases, it does need to be removed as soon as possible. If you notice a mole on your body that concerns you, talk to your doctor about your next steps and schedule surgery quickly if needed.