Moles – those brown spots on our skin that we love to hate. Moles are growths on the skin, caused by an increased number of the cells that cause color. These concentrated patches of melanin appear most commonly during the 20’s and 30’s, and concentrate in areas where the skin has been damaged by the sun. Increased sun exposure can lead to an increased number of moles. Some moles, however, can be malignant. A cancerous mole is relatively easy to detect, and early detection and treatment can stop melanoma from spreading. Follow these steps to determine if your moles are dangerous.
Once a month, take time after your shower or bath to check your skin thoroughly. Look carefully for new moles, and examine the ones that you’ve had for some time. If you notice any odd spots on your skin, or if you’ve developed new moles, it may be time to make an appointment with your doctor. You’ll also want to visit a dermatologist if any of your moles become painful, bleed, ooze, itch, or take on a scaly appearance.
You should also have your moles examined by a professional medical provider if they show any of the following danger signs:
Asymmetry: Look carefully at your mole. Now picture it folded in half. Would the edges line up? If so, your mole is normal. However, if the two sides of your mole do not match, it is asymmetrical and should be examined be a doctor.
Border: Does your mole have one color in its center and another color around its outside edges? If so, you should have your doctor take a look at it, to be on the safe side.
Color: Is your mole one consistent color throughout? If not, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Moles that turn red or pink, or that change color, should be examined.
Diameter: If your moles are bigger than a pencil eraser in diameter, you should have them checked periodically by a medical professional
If any mole changes in appearance or texture, is cut, or becomes itchy or irritated, you should have it examined immediately.
Skin cancer is most commonly caused by sun damage, and can occur whether the damage occurred from one bad burn or from multiple burns over a lifetime. For this reason, it’s crucial that you protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun. If you’ll be outside at all during the day, take the time to apply sunscreen to your entire body. Be sure you purchase a sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30, and that you apply enough of it. For full coverage and protection, you should be using about an ounce of sunscreen, or the same amount that would fill a shot glass. Even if it’s not sunny or hot outside, the sun’s rays can still damage your skin, so make applying (and re-applying) sunscreen a part of your daily routine.
Melanoma tends to hit two target areas – for men, it frequently appears on the back or shoulders, while for women, it typically strikes the lower legs. Pay careful attention to any growths on your skin, and be sure to thoroughly apply sunscreen, especially in these areas. Early detection is key to treatment, so consult a doctor if you suspect you have any of the warning signs of skin cancer.