Mole Or Melanoma?
Moles, also called nevi, are common. Almost every adult has a few on their body and /or face and this is perfectly normal and rarely causes any problem. These moles are generally a type known as a common mole.
There are other types of moles and some increase a person’s risk for getting melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Different types of moles are described below.
Atypical mole (dysplastic) :
This type of mole is not a melanoma but can look like one. However, you are at a higher risk of getting melanoma if you have:
- 4 or more atypical moles.
- Already had a melanoma.
- An immediate relative (parent, brother, sister or child) who has had melanoma.
- A mole larger than the rubber on the end of a pencil.
- A mole with an uneven shape (not round).
- A mole with more than 1 colour — mixes of tan, brown, red and pink.
Atypical moles can appear anywhere on the body. They often appear on the trunk and may appear on the scalp, head, and neck but are not usually seen on the face. Some people who have many atypical moles have a medical condition called familial atypical multiple mole-melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome. People with FAMMM syndrome have:
- Many moles — over 50.
- Some moles that are atypical.
- A blood relative who has (or had) melanoma.
When a baby is born with a mole it is called a congenital mole. Approximately 1 out of 100 people is born with a mole and they vary greatly in size. Some are extremely large and these increase a person’s risk of developing melanoma and this is something that the baby’s paediatrician would discuss with the parents at an early stage.
This type of mole often looks like melanoma and can be so similar that even skin specialists cannot identify the mole as a Spitz nevus by just looking at it. It is often pink, raised, and dome-shaped. It may also have different colours within it such as red, black and brown. The mole may bleed or have an opening that oozes.
Most Spitz nevi develop during the first 20 years of life but can appear in adulthood.
Acquired mole (50 to 100 or more)
Moles which develop after a person is born are called acquired moles. The majority of people who have light skin will have about 10 to 40 of these. They are also known as common moles.
When a person has over 50 then they are considered to be at a higher risk for getting melanoma.
Mole or Melanoma?
A mole should be:
- 1 colour – most often brown, but can also be tan, black, red, pink, blue, skin-toned or colourless.
- Round in shape.
- Flat or slightly raised.
- The same in appearance from month to month.
A person’s moles may not all look alike and even in the same person moles can vary in size, shape and colour. Some have hair and some will change slowly over time, possibly even disappearing.
Moles can appear anywhere on the body including the scalp, between the fingers and toes, on the soles and palms and even under the nails.
If you see a mole or new spot on your skin that has any of the following you should make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible:
A – Asymmetry, when one side of the mole is unlike the other.
B – Border, when the edge of the mole is irregular or not clearly defined.
C – Colour, when a mole displays more than one colour (including tan, black, white, red or blue).
D – Diameter, when a mole has a diameter of over 6mm it is more likely to be melanoma.
E – Evolving, when a mole looks different from others on the body or is changing in colour, shape or size.
In the vast majority of cases it is not necessary to worry about moles but you should know:
- A type of skin cancer, melanoma, can grow in or near a mole.
- If diagnosed early and treated, melanoma can be cured.
- The first sign of melanoma is often a change to a mole — or a new mole on your skin.
- Checking your body for new moles and changes to the ones you have can help you find melanoma early.
As previously stated, most moles are completely harmless but here at Perfect Image Consultants we would always advise that you see your GP before coming to see us. We would also state that you should never try to treat or remove a mole yourself as:
- If the mole contains skin cancer, some of the cancer cells can stay in the skin — and may even spread.
- You can disfigure your skin and cause scarring.
- You can cause an infection.
At Perfect Image Consultants we use a laser to remove moles. This is a painless treatment and gives a perfect or near perfect result. It is an alternative, more effective treatment to surgical removal, cryotherapy, radiofrequency or chemical methods.
Once a mole is removed the skin will heal. In the unlikely event that the mole grows back you must contact us and your GP immediately. This may be a sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Before the treatment
Your doctor will assess your areas of concern and, if you have not already seen your GP, advise whether further investigation (histology) is required. If so, the necessary arrangements will be made and occasionally patients are referred in order to confirm that there are no contraindications. As previously stated, we would always advise patients to consult their GPs for advice prior to booking a consultation.
During the treatment
Your doctor will mark the lesion(s) to be removed and local anaesthesia will be given at each site. The laser will then be used to cauterise each lesion. The procedure will be quick and comfortable.
After the treatment
There is no recovery time and you may leave the clinic when you are ready. However, the treated areas will look ‘scabby’ and darker than the surrounding skin. This initial scab will fall off in 5-7 days, after which a second scab will form and fall off in the next 14 days. After initial healing the appearance of the treated area will improve and a very light mark, if any, may be left behind.
There are no stitches involved and chances of any scarring are negligible.