Many moles and birthmarks on the skin are completely benign, and pose no threat to the person on whom they appear, even if they are unsightly.
However, some “moles” may not be harmless. They may be dysplastic nevi, which have the potential to become melanomas.
Dysplastic nevi are usually irregular in size, shape and color and border. They can be located on sun-exposed or sun-spared skin areas. Dr. Puente will point out to his patients which moles appear harmless and which could cause future problems and even develop into melanoma and potentially prove fatal. With just an educated viewing, he can usually tell if a patient needs further treatment for a growth or if he can reassure the patient that nothing further has to be done.
When dysplastic nevi are seen in patients who have a personal or family history of melanoma, the chances are even greater that this mole can become malignant. That is why Raleigh Dermatology always asks about a history of melanoma from every patient we see.
Most birthmarks are benign, but some may have a malignant potential, and some may indicate systemic disease. Café au lait spots are evenly tan flat spots on the trunk and may be in the armpit area also. They can indicate internal problems. Many skin changes can be associated with internal disease, such as losing the lateral third of your eyebrow being associated with thyroid disease.
To be safe, moles exhibiting any of the following warning signs should be examined immediately:
- Larger than six millimeters
- Itches or bleeds
- Rapidly changes in color, size or shape
- Has multiple colors
- Is located where it can’t be easily monitored, such as on the scalp
Depending on their depth, location and color, as well as the patient’s skin type, age and other factors, treatment for benign but unattractive birthmarks may take the form of laser or pulsed light therapy, microdermabrasion or surgical excision.
ABCDEs of Melanoma
These basic guidelines are used by many dermatologists to help identify melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Catching melanoma early could mean the difference between life and a life-threatening cancer. Knowing what to look for and performing regular self-skin exams may help you become more aware of unusual spots that should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist.
A – Asymmetrical Shape
Melanoma lesions are often irregular, or not symmetrical, in shape. Benign moles are usually symmetrical.
B – Border
Typically, non-cancerous moles have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions usually have irregular borders that are difficult to define.
C – Color
The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, tan, etc.) or the uneven distribution of color can sometimes be a warning sign of melanoma. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown or tan.
D – Diameter
Melanoma lesions are often greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser).
E – Evolution (or Change)
The evolution of your mole(s) has become the most important factor to consider when it comes to diagnosing a melanoma. Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life.
*It is important to note that not all melanomas fall within these parameters.
Please contact us at 919-876-3656 to learn more about Moles or to schedule an appointment.