At Steele Creek Dermatology in Charlotte, NC, we know that everyone has moles. Scattered across our skin like tiny islands, they’re as much a part of us as our freckles or the color of our eyes. In most cases, they’re a natural, harmless part of our body’s landscape, adding unique elements to our individual features. However, there are times when abnormal moles might stand out from the crowd, and not in the way we’d hope.
Recognizing an abnormal mole is crucial, as it could be an early sign of skin conditions that require medical attention. By learning the signs of a suspicious mole, you can arm yourself with the knowledge and confidence to keep your skin safe and healthy.
How Can You Recognize Abnormal Moles?
Having moles is entirely normal. They’re usually benign growths that are, in most cases, harmless. But when a mole starts to change, or if a new one appears that looks different from the others, it might be an indication of an abnormal mole. Understanding the difference between normal and abnormal moles is not only helpful but in some instances can be life-saving.
Understanding Normal Moles
Also known as common moles, ‘normal’ moles are harmless growths that can appear anywhere on your body. They are as individual as we are but are usually uniform in shape, have smooth edges, and are all one color, an even brown or sometimes black. Normal moles can be flat or raised and generally don’t exceed about a quarter-inch in diameter, or roughly the size of a pencil eraser.
They might have been present since childhood but can appear later. The important thing to remember is that normal moles are usually consistent in their appearance. Changes in their color, size, or shape could indicate something abnormal. Remember, a change in your mole’s appearance is not necessarily bad, but it’s a sign that it’s time to consult a professional and have it checked out.
Identifying Abnormal Moles
Fortunately, identifying moles that may cause problems is fairly simple. A handy tool you can use to recognize these suspicious moles is the ABCDE rule. Each letter stands for a characteristic to check for in your moles, making it easier to remember what to look for. Let’s break it down!
Most normal moles are symmetrical, which means that if you were to draw a line through the middle, the two halves would more or less mirror each other. If a mole is asymmetrical and one half doesn’t match the other, that could be a sign of an abnormal mole.
The edges of a typical mole are smooth and even. However, if the border of your mole is uneven or notched, it’s worth getting it checked out. This could potentially be a warning sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
A normal mole is usually a single shade of brown. If you spot a mole with a variety of colors, such as irregular shades of black and brown or even blue, red, or white, it’s advisable to contact a professional.
Most normal moles are smaller than a pencil eraser, or about 6mm in diameter. If you notice a mole that’s larger than this, it could indicate a problem and it’s time to get it checked.
Watch out for any changes in size, shape, color, elevation, or other traits. Any new symptoms like itching, bleeding, or crusting are also warning signs. These evolving characteristics are crucial warnings that can help you to identify abnormal moles.
When To See a Doctor
The ABCDE rule is only a guide, and not every abnormal mole will exhibit these features. Always listen to your instincts. If a mole is new, or if it just doesn’t look right to you, it’s worth seeking medical advice. We all know our own bodies best, and it’s better to be safe when it comes to our health.
Check Your Skin Regularly
As a general guideline, if you notice any changes in your moles, it’s time to see a doctor. Any new moles, especially if you’re over 30, should also be examined, as most people stop developing new moles earlier in life. Even if your moles seem perfectly normal, it’s important to continue with regular self-checks. Becoming familiar with your skin makes it easier to spot any changes or new growths early.
Ideally, you should conduct a self-check once a month in a well-lit room, using both a hand-held mirror and a full-length mirror to get a better view of hard-to-see areas. In addition to self-checks, consider scheduling professional skin examinations periodically. Our dermatologists are trained to identify even subtle changes that might escape an untrained eye.
Keep an Eye on Your Moles
Maintaining a vigilant eye on your skin isn’t just about health, it’s about peace of mind. By understanding what is normal for you and staying attuned to any changes, you’re actively taking control of your health. Remember, when it comes to your health, you are your own best advocate. Trust your instincts, know your skin, and contact Steele Creek Dermatology in Charlotte, NC, for professional help if you find abnormal moles.