Doctors have specific criteria for distinguishing different types of moles, but most of it exceeds what everyday people like you and I really need to know.
When it comes right down to it, there are basically two mole types: normal and abnormal.
What are Normal Moles?
Just to clarify, when I say normal and abnormal, I’m referring specifically to how moles might impact your long-term health.
As the name implies, normal moles are harmless. On the other hand, abnormal moles can indicate a very serious health condition, like skin cancer.
Normal moles can become abnormal at any time, so it’s important that you learn what to watch for (see below). But as you might guess, only your doctor can tell you for sure whether a mole is normal or abnormal.
As stated above, the medical community further classifies moles beyond what their potential health risk is.
These other classifications include congenital, dysplastic, and blue moles.
Congenital moles are those you’re born with. They vary in size and shape, like normal moles.
Dysplastic moles differ from normal moles in that they’re usually much larger, i.e. greater than 5mm in diameter. The coloring is often inconsistent and they’re irregularly shaped.
These moles are more likely to become abnormal as compared to other types of skin moles, so it’s important to pay more attention to them.
Blue moles, which are named for their appearance, are most common in women, children and young adults. Their blue appearance is attributed to the high concentration of melanin (pigment) found deep within the skin.
How to Identify an Abnormal Mole
Again, some moles can be cancerous. The most serious form of skin cancer is melanoma, which can be fatal.
It’s important to realize that abnormal moles aren’t diagnosed solely on appearance. There’s just too much potential for variance. A biopsy is needed to determine whether a mole is cancerous.
Having said that, the following guidelines are meant to help you determine if a visit to your doctor is needed. They’re known as A.B.C.D.E., which stands for:
Asymmetry: Does one part of the mole appear similar in appearance to another?
Border: Is the border rough, edgy or difficult to detect?
Color: Does the mole have multiple shades or uneven coloring?
Diameter: Is the mole bigger than a pencil eraser?
Evolution: These are changes in moles, e.g., in the color, size or shape. Other changes could include pain, itchiness, and bleeding.
In addition to these guidelines, you should also be particularly watchful if you have a family history of skin cancer. Or if a new mole develops beyond the age of twenty.
You also want to pay close attention to the parts of your body that receive the most direct sunlight, e.g., your face and neck as well as your arms and legs.
Finally, I want to point out that moles are incredibly common and the vast majority of them aren’t abnormal or dangerous.
Just remember some of these key distinctions regarding the different types of moles, so you know what to look out for as you check in on them from time to time.
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