Skin cancer screenings are an important part of skin cancer prevention. And when they result in mole removal, it can feel like a surprise. If you're wondering what your dermatologist looks for when considering mole removal, here are some of their criteria.
Moles typically look like small brown spots on the skin. And while you might think all moles are the same, the truth is that there are different types of moles that your dermatologist is looking for. First, there are congenital moles. These moles are present from birth and often considered birthmarks. While the vast majority are benign, there is a chance congenital moles could develop into skin cancer. Acquired moles, on the other hand, develop during childhood or early adulthood. They account for the majority of moles on the skin and are usually harmless. Atypical moles will be a warning sign for your dermatologist. They often run in families and can develop into different types of skin cancer. More often than not, these are the moles your dermatologist will recommend removing.
Asymmetry is one of the early signs of skin cancer in a mole. A typical mole will be symmetrical all around. It's when there's a lack of symmetry that your dermatologist may express concern. When one half of a mole doesn't resemble the other half, it's considered an atypical mole, which could be a sign of skin cancer.
Blurred, jagged, or difficult to define borders on a mole will be another characteristic your dermatologist looks for. Most regular moles have a clearly defined border that is smooth on the skin. A scalloped or blurred border means there may be irregular cell growth in a mole. Your dermatologist will likely order a biopsy in this situation.
The vast majority of moles will be tan, brown, or sometimes black. In addition, regular moles will be consistent in color throughout each individual mole. Any irregularities in color could be warning signs of skin cancer. Common colors to look out for include red, white, and blue. Moles with inconsistent coloring are also a factor your dermatologist will look for.
Moles are typically pretty small. You may have some variation in mole size throughout your body, but overall a regular mole will be smaller than a pencil eraser. When your dermatologist is performing a mole evaluation or a skin cancer screening, they will be looking for moles that exist outside of these normal diameters. If there's a mole larger than a pencil eraser, your dermatologist will likely want to look at it more closely or have it removed, just to be safe.
Evolving moles are a key early sign of different types of skin cancer. If you notice that one of your moles is changing in shape, size, or color on a consistent basis, it's time to see your dermatologist for an evaluation. Mole evolution can be a sure sign of irregular cell growth and any evolving moles on your skin need to be looked at as soon as possible.
If you have questions about abnormalities on your skin and think you might need a mole evaluation or skin cancer screening, contact our team at North Pacific Dermatology to set up an appointment today.