Mole is simply a harmless raised portion of skin due to hyperpigmentation. There could be moles of different types and sizes. Few moles are inherited and few appear in later stages of life. Not all moles are cancerous, but certain types of moles can be an indication of early stages of melanoma or skin cancer.
There could be different types of moles of varied sizes and pigmentation levels. People with fairer skin tones might have more number of moles.Congenital moles are the ones that you inherit.They are present right from the birth. There are moles that you might acquire in childhood or later stages of life due to exposure to the sun. Moles could occur in different parts of the body. Some might even have hair growing out of them. A common belief is that a mole which has hair growth from it is a safe non-cancerous mole.
Characteristics of a typical mole:
Typical moles which normally occur in almost everyone are considered safe. These harmless moles have the following features:
- Symmetrical neat structure
- Slightly raised bumpy part above the skin
- Smooth edges
- Have a diameter of around 6mm
- They retain the same color and size
Melanoma is a worse form of skin cancer. It generally begins with the appearance of a mole which looks much like a normal mole. On closely observing the mole if you find any of the above-discussed features, it might be an early indication of melanoma. As a general rule, melanoma mostly occurs in the legs for women and in the torso for men. This is a general case. But be careful to look out for irregular or evolving moles on any part of your body.
When should you worry about a mole?
Be it an inherited mole or one that you acquired later, any type of mole could actually turn to a cancerous growth in few cases. There are a few warning signs you should look out for:
- The shape of the mole- Typically a cancerous mole is asymmetrical.
- The border of the mole should generally be smooth. A mole with ragged edges or lobules might be a cancerous one.
- Size- the normal mole is 6mm or less in diameter. Moles are that bigger are higher risk.
- Color- cancerous moles are a mix of various colors. Normal moles remain the same color they were when they first appeared.
- Continuouslychanging- a mole that keeps growing in size, one that changes shape or suddenly starts turning into a different color is one that should raise your concern. A non-cancerous mole remains the same right from the time you first acquired it.
- Itchiness or redness- sudden itchiness on the mole or bleeding or pain in the mole
- Inflammation of the mole or the surrounding skin
These are a few signs you should take as a warning. Besides these, perform a regular inspection of your moles. Observe them for any changes. Even a slight change in the color or size should keep you warned of any underlying risks. In case you spot any of the warning signs, consult your dermatologist. He might sample a part of the risky mole and would check for cancerous tissues in it. So know that not all moles are cancerous. But remember that any mole can grow into a cancerous tissue.