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Demystifying the difference between moles and melanoma: what to look for and when to see your doc.


Moles are common skin growths that can appear anywhere on the body. They are usually harmless, but sometimes they can develop into melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can be life-threatening. It's essential to know the difference between moles and melanoma and understand when to see a dermatologist. In this blog post, we will demystify the difference between moles and melanoma and provide tips for monitoring your skin health.

What are Moles?

Moles are growths on the skin that are usually brown or black in color. They can appear anywhere on the body and can vary in size, shape, and color. Moles can be flat or raised, smooth or rough, and may have hair growing from them. Most moles are benign, which means they are not cancerous and do not pose a health risk.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can develop from moles. It is caused by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. Melanoma can be deadly if it is not detected and treated early. It can appear as a new mole or an existing mole that has changed in size, shape, or color. Melanoma can also appear as a dark, irregularly shaped patch on the skin.

What to Look for in Moles and Melanoma?

To detect potential skin cancer, it's essential to check your skin regularly and monitor any changes in moles. Use the "ABCDE" method to look for the following signs:

A: Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other half in size, shape, or color. B: Border: The edges of the mole are irregular, blurred, or jagged. C: Color: The mole has uneven coloring, multiple colors, or shades of brown, black, white, blue, or red. D: Diameter: The mole is larger than 6mm in diameter, about the size of a pencil eraser. E: Evolving: The mole has changed in size, shape, color, or texture.

When to See a Dermatologist?

If you notice any of the ABCDE signs, or if you have a mole that is itching, bleeding, or scabbing, you should see a dermatologist. A dermatologist can examine your skin and determine whether a mole needs to be biopsied or removed. A biopsy involves removing a sample of the mole or skin and testing it for cancer.

In conclusion, it's crucial to know the difference between moles and melanoma and to monitor your skin regularly for changes. By following the ABCDE method, you can identify potential signs of skin cancer and seek treatment from a dermatologist. Don't ignore any changes in moles, as early detection and treatment are key to preventing melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

A. David Soleymani, M.D. Board-Certified Dermatologist

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