Moles can be a sign of beauty. Throughout history, from French queen Marie Antoinette to supermodel Cindy Crawford, dark dots on the face have been prized as glamorous features. Those not born with them often use an eye pencil to mimic the iconic beauties’ moles. But what some deem beautiful may actually be quite dangerous.
Dr. Allen Sapadin, renowned dermatologist on the East Coast, specializes in analyzing, diagnosing, and treating complex skin conditions, including moles.
Depending on when your mole appeared, what it looks like, and how it’s changing, it could either be nothing to worry about or have cause for concern. Here’s what you need to know.
Do a regular self-check
You’re your first line of defense when it comes to your own health. No one knows your body like you do, and you’ll be the first to notice if something seems wrong. That’s why Dr. Sapadin recommends that you check your moles regularly so you can tell whether they’ve changed shape, size, texture, or color.
When in doubt, follow the A,B, C, D, E’s:
A is for asymmetrical
Noncancerous, or benign, moles have the same, size, color, and shape on both halves. If you draw an imaginary line down the center of your mole, each side should look like a mirror image of the other. If it doesn’t, it could be a sign of cancer.
B is for border
Check the border of all your moles. What you want to see is smooth edges all the way around. If any of yours have jagged or scalloped edges, you need to see Dr. Sapadin.
C is for color
Most moles are some shade of tan, brown, or pink. But the most important thing is the uniformity of the color. If your mole is all one shade, that’s good. If you see multiple colors in one mole, including speckles or a different color in the center, it’s time to get that one checked out.
D is for diameter
Although moles vary in size, the smaller ones are less likely to be a problem. If you have a mole that is bigger than a pencil eraser, call Dr. Sapadin.
E is for evolving
Moles that stay the same over time and pass the A, B, C, D’s above are generally benign. It’s the moles that change which you need to watch. That’s why it’s important to self-check your moles on a regular basis, so you can detect change when it happens.
Understand skin cancer
If you have one or more moles that fail the A, B, C, D, E test, you need to see Dr. Sapadin right away so he can test for melanoma.
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that strikes more than a million Americans every year. It’s extremely dangerous and kills more than 9,000 people in the US annually.
Different layers may be affected
One type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. This means that it’s in the deepest part of your epidermis, the outer layer of your skin. This type doesn’t usually spread throughout your body and can usually be treated in Dr. Sapadin’s office.
Or you could have squamous cell carcinoma, which affects the upper part of your epidermis and appears red and scaly. Like basal cell carcinoma, if caught early, this type of cancer can generally be treated in the office without fear of spreading.
The worst kind is nodular melanoma — it spreads fast and is hard to treat. In addition to having the mole and some surrounding tissue removed, you may also have to undergo radiation and chemotherapy.
If caught early, melanoma is nearly always treatable. But a better plan is to prevent it altogether. Avoiding overexposure to UV rays from the sun or a tanning bed is the best way to prevent skin cancer.
Follow these tips to avoid the effect of harmful UV rays:
- Use SPF 30+ sunscreen
- Wear protective clothing when you’re in the sun
- Seek the shade whenever possible
- Stay indoors when the sun is intense (typically between 10am-4pm)
Everyone has moles, but not all moles are benign. Now that you know what to look for, make sure you come in to see Dr. Sapadin at our Hackensack, New Jersey, office right away if you suspect anything could be out of the ordinary. Call us or book an appointment online today.