Moles: Should I Be Concerned?

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Moles are small bumps or areas on the skin that are caused when melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin and give skin our color, grow in clusters.  Moles are extremely common and chances are very slim that they will develop into melanoma.  However, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them and pay special attention to any changes which might indicate unusual cell activity.
Moles typically appear within the first 30 years of life and in most instances, moles are harmless and are of no concern, especially if there is no change in their appearance over time.  If, however, a mole begins to look or appear differently than the others on your body, you may want to consider visiting your doctor or dermatologist.  For example, if a mole’s color or height is unique, or if a mole has a scaly surface or itches and bleeds, you should have it checked as soon as possible.  Although only a very small percentage of moles undergo any malignant changes, understanding the warning signs can help identify dangers early.
To detect whether a mole may potentially lead to skin cancer, evaluate it using a system commonly referred to as ABCDE (asymmetry, border, color, diameter and elevation).

  • Asymmetry – refers to whether the mole is uniform in appearance. If one half does not match the other half, it could signal a problem 
  • Border – the border of a mole should be smooth and distinct. If it appears ragged, you should have it checked
  • Color – If a mole is black or red, it could develop into a melanoma 
  • Diameter – A mole’s diameter shouldn’t exceed that of a pencil eraser 
  • Elevation – note how raised a mole is. While most moles are slightly elevated from the skin, abnormally-raised moles can potentially develop into skin cancer.

The best way to keep moles from becoming cancerous is by practicing safe sun habits, including limiting your exposure to the sun by covering up, seeking shade when possible, avoiding the sun during peak hours between 10am and 4pm, and using a photostable sunscreen which protects against both UVA and UVB rays, like Anthelios with Mexoryl technology.
An interesting note about moles: a recent study by scientists at King’s College London found that people with a high number of moles had longer telomeres, the DNA sequences on the ends of chromosomes.   It is believed that longer telomeres are an indication of longevity and a resistance to the visible signs of aging.  An unexpected benefit indeed.

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