Common Moles and Risk of Melanoma

Everybody has moles! They’re common. Lighter skin people are more prone than people of color. Moles can be brown, black, pink, skin-colored, or even blue! They should be the same color throughout, have a smooth border, and be either oval or round.

This issue with moles is that melanoma, a dangerous type of skin cancer, can look like or start in a mole. You should get in the habit of checking your skin and seeing your dermatologist if you notice anything suspicious.

Here’s what you should look out for:

  • New Moles, especially if you’re over 30.
  • Spots that change or grow
  • Moles that have more than one color
  • Moles that are bigger than a pencil eraser
  • Moles with a jagged border
  • Anything that bleeds
  • Growths that itch
  • Any mole that looks different from the others (ugly duckling sign)

Types of Moles that Increase Melanoma Risk

Atypical Moles

Melanoma can grow in an atypical mole. Anyone who has atypical moles, should watch his or her moles for change.

This type of mole can look like melanoma. It is not melanoma. But you have a higher risk of getting melanoma if you have:

  • Four or more atypical moles
  • Already had a melanoma
  • A first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) who had melanoma.

Your dermatologist may call an atypical mole a dysplastic nevus. “Nevus” is the medical term for mole. When your dermatologist is talking about two or more moles, you may hear the word “nevi”.

Atypical moles can appear anywhere on the body. They often appear on the trunk. You can also get them on your scalp, head, or neck. Atypical moles rarely appear on the face.

Some people who have many atypical moles have a medical condition called familial atypical multiple mole-melanoma syndrome (FAMMM). People with FAMMM syndrome have:

  • Many moles- more than 50
  • Some moles that are atypical
  • A blood relative who has (or had) melanoma

Congenital Mole

When a person is born with a mole, the mole is called a congenital mole. Roughly, 1 person out of 100 is born with a mole. These moles vary in size from small to giant. Having a giant congenital mole increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma.

Spitz Nevus

This mole can look like melanoma. In fact, it can so closely

 resemble melanoma that dermatologists often remove them to be safe. Most Spitz nevi are pink, raised, and dome-shaped. A Spitz nevus can also have different colors in it like red, black, and brown. Most Spitz nevi appear on the skin during the first 20 years of life. Adults also occasionally get Spitz nevi.

Acquired mole (50 to 100 or more)

When a mole appears on the skin after a person is born, it is called an acquired mole. Most people who have light skin have about 10 to 40 of these moles. These moles also are called common moles.

If a person has 50 or more of these moles, the person has a higher risk for getting melanoma.

A dermatologist can remove suspicious moles during an office visit, without any downtime. The mole can be checked for cancer at a laboratory.

Insurance typically covers the cost, unless you’re having the mole removed because you dislike the way it looks.

Having a suspicious mole checked for melanoma is important. If melanoma is found, you’ll be able to get the treatment you need. Finding out that your mole is harmless can give peace of mind.

If you have a mole or new growth that you’d like checked out, give our office a call at 954-666-3736 and Dr. Maryann Mikhail can further assess.