Personally, I find moles to be quite harmless, maybe even cute. When I say “moles,” I am, of course, referring to the furry little mammals burrowing blindly around my mother’s garden from time to time…oh wait, that’s not the type of “mole” …So, just like actual moles, for the most part moles that appear on your skin are typically benign and may even be endearing or attractive, as is the case with beauty marks. However, moles can also be an indicator of skin cancer, so it’s important to know when a mole isn’t just a mole (hint: it’s not when the mole walks and talks a la The Wind in The Willows, charming as that may be).
How can you tell if something’s amiss? Let’s look at 5 signs your mole could be dangerous. Thankfully, there’s a convenient acronym to help you determine whether or not your mole could be cancerous and you need to schedule a trip to the dermatologist: ABCDE (ok so that’s technically just a string of letters, but you get the idea).
1. Asymmetry—moles come in all shapes and sizes, but if your mole is lopsided or one half looks significantly different from the other half, this is cause for concern.
2. Border—generally speaking, the edges of your mole should not be blurred, ragged, or irregular. If it looks like the pigment of your mole is bleeding out of the edges, that’s also a problem.
3. Color—moles come in a variety of colors ranging from brown to tan, but normal moles should be a uniform color. If the color of your mole is uneven, you should have it checked.
4. Diameter—if you notice your mole has increased in size, this could be a sign of cancer. Melanomas are typically larger than 0.25 inches, which is bigger than a pencil eraser.
5. Evolving—if your mole begins to change, either in size, color, or shape, or there’s just something different about it than the rest of your moles, get it examined.
Additionally, you should consider having a dermatologist take a look at your moles if they bleed, ooze, itch, appear scaly, or become tender or painful. When dealing with cancer, early detection is key for successful treatment, so be on the lookout for these signs of skin cancer and consider having an annual skin check performed by a dermatologist.
If your mole is deemed to be harmless, leave it alone! It’s not hurting anyone. Also, if you tend to be paranoid like me and are now scrutinizing all of your moles using a magnifying glass and an eraser, stop and take a breath: only a tiny percentage of moles are cancerous, so don’t start picking out flowers for your wake just yet. Oh, and if you DO need those flowers, I will take the opportunity to say that my mom grows some quite beautiful ones in that garden I mentioned earlier. Moles not included.