Moles, also called “beauty spots”, are small clusters of skin cells called melanocytes, which pigment the hair and skin, and are located in the deepest layer of the skin. Dark brown, light brown, colourless, covered in hair or resembling a wart -moles take very different shapes and sizes. The majority of them pose no risk to the health, but they should be monitored nonetheless in case they undergo dangerous changes.
How do moles form?
From childhood, the first moles appear and can change in appearance as we age. An adult has an average of around thirty moles, most often in areas that are frequently exposed to sunlight, such as the arms and legs.
The number and size of an adult’s moles depends on the amount of sun exposure they had during childhood. Pale skin is more sensitive to sun exposure.
Why are some moles dangerous?
In 75% of cases, moles have no impact on our health. Rarely, it can happen that a mole transforms into a melanoma, a malignant tumour. The risk of skin cancer is higher if you have a family history of skin cancer, a tendency to get sunburned easily or if you sunbathe or go on sunbeds for long periods of time.
Nowadays, everyone can learn how to recognise when a mole needs further attention, thanks to the ABCDE of moles identified by dermatologists. They have created a self-examination guide to help you recognise the early signs of skin cancer (see below). In any case, if you have any concerns, consult a dermatologist.
How can you protect your moles?
The sun being the main risk factor in the development of a melanoma, protect your skin with sun screen (without parabens, etc.) when you are in the outdoors. Regularly check your skin yourself, and ask your doctor or a dermatologist to check you out once a year if you want additional reassurance.
In summer, wear a hat and avoid sun exposure between 11am and 4pm, the hottest hours.
Be aware that no cosmetic product can assure 100% UV protection -either put on some clothes or go in the shade.
If a mole bleeds after a scrape or an injury to the area, this is not dangerous.
Causes for concern
In the following cases, it is recommended that you consult a dermatologist:
- When a mole appears and grows very quickly, or faster than others.
- When a mole meets at least 3 of the 5 criteria from the ABCDE guidelines:
– “A” for Assymetry: if you were to divide the mole in two, the two parts would not be symmetrical or identical.
– “B” for Border: The borders of the mole are irregular
– “C” for Colour: The mole is multi-coloured -dark brown, light brown, pink, etc.
– “D” for diameter: it measures more than 6 millimeters in diameter.
– “E” for evolution: it changes rapidly or more rapidly than your other moles. This criteria alone could signal the precursors of certain aggressive melanomas.