Benign moles have different names depending on their color and when they present in life. Moles may be present at birth or develop in the first few decades of life. Almost everyone has at least one mole and they can occur on every body site, including on the scalp, eyes, and genital area. The tendency to develop great numbers of moles runs in families.
The most important part of our job, as dermatologists, is early detection of skin cancer. We encourage our patients to perform self-examinations frequently, bring suspicious growths to our attention and come in for a full body skin examination annually.
The ABCDEs have been developed to help patients examine themselves at home and to recognize changes in moles that may necessitate an evaluation. These changes could indicate a transformation melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.
The ABCDE of Melanoma
Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer if not caught in the early stages. Early detection is essential for long-term survival. Risk factors for melanoma include a personal history of melanoma, a first-degree relative with melanoma (mother/father/sister/brother), tanning bed exposure, a history of sunburns or excessive sun exposure, a personal history of atypical moles, and having more than 40 moles on the body.
Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body including sun-protected areas. The palms and soles, genitalia, anus, eyes, and mouth all may develop melanoma. The most important means of detecting a melanoma is regular yearly skin checks by your dermatologist and frequent self-exams at home to look for the ABCDEs or anything new
If a mole is changing, concerning or if there is a new mole that develops after age 30, it should be evaluated by your dermatologist and a biopsy may be recommended. Depending on the size of the mole, a shave biopsy, punch biopsy or excisional biopsy may be recommended. A shave biopsy will have no stitches and will not limit your activity. A punch biopsy or excisional biopsy will have stitches. Both usually leave a small scar. Benign moles may also be removed by shave or surgical excision. All of these procedures are performed in the office and pain is controlled with local anesthesia injected into the area to numb the skin.