Getting To Know Your Moles

Getting To Know Your Moles, California Skin Skin Insititute

You probably have at least a mole or two, but do you really know much about what they are, and if you should be concerned?

Moles (sometimes called nevi) are normal skin growths. They can be round or oval, and black or brown in color. For most people, moles appear during the first 25 years of their lives. By adulthood, it’s completely normal to have 10-40 moles on your body. As time goes on, you can typically expect your moles to change in shape and color – and to possibly even develop hair.

What Causes Moles?
Moles appear when cells in the skin (called melanocytes) grow into a cluster, rather than being spread throughout the skin. Melanocytes produce melanin, which is what gives skin its natural color.

Types of Moles:

Congenital Nevi
These are moles that are present at birth, and are more likely to turn into melanoma (cancer) than moles that appear after birth.

Dysplastic Nevi
These moles are typically larger than other moles and are irregular in shape. They tend to have dark brown centers and blurry edges. Dysplastic nevi sometimes share the same signs of pre-cancerous or cancerous moles, however, most are benign.

How do I know if a mole is cancerous?
Most moles are not dangerous, however, regular self-examination on the color, size, and shape of your moles is an important step in maintaining good health. Moles that appear after the age of 25 are more likely to develop into melanoma than those that appear at birth. If you spot a change in a mole’s size, height, color, shape, or if it becomes itchy, painful or tender, you should consult a dermatologist.

Best practices for taking care of your skin:

  • Set aside 10 minutes a month to check all the skin on your body for new skin growths or changes.
  • Always wear sunscreen on exposed skin, even when it’s cloudy.
  • Avoid being in the sun between 11 AM and 3 PM; this is when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are at their peak.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.
  • Observe changes in existing moles or any new growths, and see your dermatologist immediately if concerned.
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