Why You Should Be Aware of the ABCDEs of Moles

moles

Also known as “beauty marks,” moles are typically benign collections of pigment-producing cells that hang out around the top layer of skin. These marks can be almost unnoticeable, flesh-colored even, or they can be brown, blue, or black. Many of society’s “most beautiful” have prominent moles, including Cindy Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, Eva Mendes, and Ewan McGregor.

In fact, moles are so common that you probably don't even pay attention to yours. And while that’s okay for the most part, here at SkinMD we always advise our patients to perform monthly checks to look out for any changes that may indicate the presence of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

An introduction to melanoma

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Melanoma, a cancer that develops in the epidermal layer of the skin, only accounts for about 1% of skin cancer diagnoses, but is responsible for a majority of deaths. Melanoma is a cancerous growth that forms when ultraviolet (UV) light, usually from the sun or tanning beds, damages the skin’s cellular DNA.

Melanoma forms in melanocytes, cells that make melanin, a brown pigment which gives skin a tan or brown color. This darkening of the skin protects the deeper layers of the skin from the UV radiation effects. When we’re exposed to too much UV radiation, mutations are triggered which cause the cells to rapidly multiply, resulting in cancer.

Although melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, such as basal cell and squamous cell cancers, it’s more dangerous and can spread much more quickly. Due to the fact that melanoma is much easier to detect than other cancers, the chances of surviving it are much higher if caught early.

If you have moles on your body, monitoring them for abnormalities is incredibly important in order to catch cancer quickly. Melanoma rates have been on the rise for the past 30 years. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be more than 96,000 diagnoses in 2019, and over 7,000 will be fatal.

Finding melanoma

Melanoma is most likely to develop on the chest and back in men, and on the legs in women. However, they can develop anywhere on the body, including the neck and face. Although these sites are common, they’re less common in people with darkly pigmented skin. The African American community sees a higher prevalence of skin cancer under the nails, on the palms of the hands, and on the soles of the feet. In rare instances, melanoma can also form in the eyes, mouth, and genital regions.

The ABCDEs of moles

Any irregularities in your moles should be noted and checked for signs of melanoma. There are 5 main irregularities we look for in moles to signify cancers:

If you have moles, even if you don’t see any irregularities, you should make it a habit to examine each of them monthly. In addition, be sure to note any new marks that show up on your body.

Melanoma can spread aggressively, and is the most serious type of skin cancer. If any of your moles meet the criteria above, call our office in Lexington, Kentucky, immediately for an appointment. Dr. Pruden will determine if your moles are suspicious and whether they should be removed.

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