Ask Your Dermatologist: What Kind of Moles Are Cancerous?

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What Is a Mole?

To determine what kind of moles are cancerous, one needs an understanding of what moles are and where they come from. A basic mole is a group of skin that has cells that grow in a cluster instead of spreading out throughout the skin. The cells are called melanocytes. The melanocytes create the pigment that determines the natural skin color of the mole.

What Are the Type Of Moles and When Do They occur?

There are two types of moles. The first are moles that are apparent at birth, also known as congenital nevi. These types of moles are generally seen in about one out of 100 people.

The other type of mole is called a Dysplastic nevi. These moles are irregular in their shape and are larger than other moles. The people that have the Dysplastic type mole may have over 100 of them spread throughout their body. These types of moles develop after a person is born.

Can Either One Of These Moles Types Develop into Cancer?

The answer to that question is yes. Both of these type are candidates to become cancerous. The congenital nevi type moles are believed to have more of a potential to develop into skin cancer (melanoma) than the Dysplastic nevi type mole.

The Dysplastic nevi have lighter uneven edges and dark brown centers. Individuals that have more than one hundred of these moles, have a greater chance of developing melanoma because of the factor of the amount of moles that they have.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cancerous Moles?

There are signs and symptoms to look for in moles that may need to be examined by a physician or dermatologist if they arise. There is also a method to which to check the moles that have the potential to turn into cancer.

The method is known as the ABCDE method of examining Moles.

  • Asymmetry – This is where the mole is checked to see if one side of the mole matches the other side.
  • Border – It is important that the moles be checked to see if the edges are irregular, blurred, or ragged.
  • Color – It is essential to check the mole to see if the shades are the same such as red, blue, black, brown, white, or shades of tan evenly throughout the mole.
  • Diameter – Each mole should be examined to make sure that they are no larger than the diameter of an eraser of a pencil (6 mm or 1.4 inch).
  • Evolution – It is important to check the moles for any changes in color, shape, or size. Also check for crusting, itching or bleeding.

This method can be used to self examine moles for changes. It is a good idea if an individual cannot see the moles themselves, to ask a friend to help them look at the moles for any of the signs explained in the ABCDEs method of examining the moles. Moles is where skin cancer begins, so it is important to take a look at all of them. If any changes are noticed, it is highly recommended to have them checked by a doctor or dermatologist for further examination.

It is important To Consider the Following

It is important to have all moles examined by a physician or dermatologist. They are the trained professionals that can conduct further examinations such as biopsies to determine what kind of moles are cancerous or not. Not all moles develop in to cancer. It has been noted that most moles end up being benign and do not need treatment. However, some of the moles may develop into melanoma (skin cancer).



The Skin Cancer Foundation

Rush University Medical Center

Saint louis University Cancer Center

National Cancer Institute

Rice University