What you should know about cancerous moles

A mole, also known as melanocytic naevus, is an abnormal collection of pigment cells within the deeper layer of the skin. Many people are born with a few moles, while others develop moles later on in their lives. The vast majority ofmoles are harmless, but some moles can develop into cancerous growths. Here are key concerns and remedies about cancerous moles you should know about.

Concerns about moles

The main concern with moles is that some of them may go on to develop into a condition called malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma is a serious medical concern because it is known to be an aggressive type of skin cancer that can actually be fatal.

Moles that go on to develop into malignant melanoma usually first appear after the age of 30 and often look different than the vast majority of harmless moles.The cancerous moles have uneven colour with lighter, uneven edges and dark brown centres.

Moles that are harmless may change colour, shape and size, as well due to benign, non-cancerous increases in number of pigment cells. However, you should always look carefully for any changes to your moles thatlook particularly unusual. Seek immediate medical attention if you see any molethat looks out of the ordinary.

Examining your moles

Examine your moles regularly. Look out for the size, colour, shape and height of the moles. If you see any signs that an existing mole has changed in some way, or that a new mole has developed, contact your dermatologist or skin doctor so it can be evaluated.

Be particularly vigilant about any signs of change in an existing mole or development of a new mole if you come from a family with a history of malignant melanoma. Also, have a dermatologist check your moles right away if the moles bleed, itch, ooze or become painful.

Melanoma is best treated when spotted early. Treatment usually involves surgical excision, which entails cutting out the affected skin. If a mole does not change over time, however, there is little reason for much concern.

Helpful tips on preventing cancerous moles

If you have many moles, avoid exposing your skin to too much sun to prevent the moles developing into cancerous moles. Overexposure to UV light can increase your likelihood of developing melanoma, although it is not always possible to completely prevent the condition occurring.

Take extra care while you are out in the sun. Stay under a shade when the sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm. Wear sunglasses, wide-brimmed hat and cover up with clothes in the hot sun. Apply a high-factor sunscreen (minimum SPF15) and keep away from sunbeds and sunlamps that give out UV rays.

Remember: examine your moles regularly for any visible changes so you can have them checked. Also, reapply sunscreen regularly, particularly after an evening out swimming on a hot day.

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