Moles are common--most people have them--and they are usually benign and harmless. Even so, you should check your body on a regular basis to see if they change their shape, color or appearance since they can turn into melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Keep in mind these mole ABCs in order to detect a potential problem as early as possible, while treatment is still a possibility.
A Is for Asymmetry
When checking your moles, look at whether they are symmetrical. The shape should be uniform and not unusal. A symmetrical mole is typically benign, while an asymmetrical one may be a warning sign.
B Is for Border
The border of benign moles are smooth. Ragged, uneven edges may signal a problem.
C Is for Color
If the the color of your moles is not uniform or changes over time, you should get them checked out. Moles are typically one color, so if you see shade variations, that could be a sign of malignancy.
D Is for Diameter
Benign moles are typically no larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser. Larger moles or moles that grow quickly may be become cancerous. If you notice your mole growing, get it checked. Moles on the larger side should be checked annually as well.
E Is for Elevation
Normal moles may be slightly raised above the skin, but if the mole starts to grow or it is elevated irregularly, you should see a dermatologist.
Some people are just prone to moles and will have them all over their bodies. Others may just have one or two. In any case, it's always good to keep an eye on your moles, monitoring them closely for any changes. And if you do have more than a few, a full body check by a dermatologist is a good annual visit to schedule.
For more information on moles and other skin issues, visit our skin cancer forum.