Normal moles refer to common small brown growths and spots on the skin that appear in the initial few decades of life in almost every person. They can either be raised or flat and are usually round and regularly shaped. Sun exposure is the cause for the development of many moles.
At times, it can be challenging to differentiate between an atypical mole and early-stage melanoma. Certain melanomas initiate within an atypical mole. The level of atypical characteristics of the mole can establish whether it is benign, or at moderate or high risk of developing into melanoma.
Risk Factors for Melanoma
A person must be especially vigilant if they have atypical moles along with the following common risk factors for melanoma:
- Light hair, eyes, and/or skin
- Numerous moles
- A family or personal history of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer
- Sensitivity to the sun
- Inability to tan
- Repetitive and intermittent sunburns
- A substantial mole present at birth
The best precaution a person can take is to understand their skin. All members of the family should routinely evaluate all the moles on their skin surface to notice any changes and bring these to the attention of their doctor. Doing so can help minimize the risk of melanoma developing into a life-threatening stage.
Each person, especially those with a heightened risk of developing melanoma, should:
- Check their skin thoroughly every month using both a full-length and handheld mirror and a good source of light to view each area clearly. Ask a friend or family member to examine your back and other areas of the body that are difficult to view yourself. Checking the scalp can be done effectively using a hairdryer. Remember to check the soles of the feet and between the toes.
- Contact your physician promptly if you detect any warning signs of melanoma. Show your physician any moles in which you have seen suspicious signs, indications, or changes. Visit your physician for a head-to-toe examination every year, more frequently if you notice any changes in your moles.
If the dermatologist diagnoses you with atypical moles, you should:
- Document the complete family history or atypical moles, melanomas, or other forms of cancer, and discuss it with your physician.
- Undergo routine skin exams at intervals recommended by your physician, and encourage your family members to do so as well.
- In addition to routine medical examinations, also conduct monthly self-exams on the skin.
- Check with your physician about having a set of full-body pictures taken, especially if you have family members with atypical moles, numerous moles, or have been diagnosed with melanoma. It is easier to spot changes this way.
- Ask the doctor to evaluate any suspicious or changing skin growth promptly.
- Check with your doctor if you need an eye exam as moles and melanomas may also develop in the eyes.
- Be mindful, but do not worry.
Regular self-exams, professional exams, and common sense can significantly reduce the possibility of a melanoma growing to a threatening size before it can be diagnosed and eliminated.
Board certified dermatologist Dr. Jamie McGinness and Jackie McGinness, FNP (Nurse Practitioner) receive patients from Shiloh, IL; St. Louis, MO, and nearby areas for dermatology treatments.
If you would like to learn more about procedures and treatments at Metro East Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center by Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Jamie L. McGinness please contact us here or call (618) 622-SKIN (7546)
Taking new patients in and around the greater St. Louis, Missouri and Illinois area: East St. Louis Missouri, Shiloh Illinois, Belleville, Millstadt, Saint Clair County, Madison County and more.