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Knowing the ABCDE rule can help save your life.
We’re fortunate enough to live in a time where medical information is widely available and easy to access. With such information at our fingertips, there are times when we can become hyper-sensitive and blow things out of proportion. One such area where people can become unduly concerned is the appearance of moles on one’s skin. People are constantly told by public service announcements on TV to be on the lookout for any changes, which can lead some people to worry needlessly over the moles that they have. It is true that melanoma, a type of skin cancer, can grow around or in a mole, but that does not mean that every mole will become cancerous.
In fact, it’s quite normal for a person to have moles on their body. The American Academy of Dermatology states that it’s not unusual for the average person to have between ten to forty moles on their skin. (1) Most moles actually appear early on in a person’s life, usually when they’re a young child and up through the first thirty years of life. While parents may worry when spotting a new mole on their child, it’s really nothing to worry about. Moles will actually grow as the child grows up, and they can even darken or lighten. This does not normally mean that a young person is developing melanoma, but if a parent is concerned enough, they should consult a licensed dermatologist, such as Dr. F. Victor Rueckl of Lakes Dermatology in Las Vegas, to make sure that nothing is wrong.
A mole is a growth that occurs when cells in the skin grow in a cluster instead of spreading throughout the skin. There are several different types of moles. A common mole is known as an acquired nevus and is harmless. These moles appear as a flat, round spot that is one color throughout and grow symmetrically. A congenital mole can take several different forms. They can look like normal moles or as a bluish-gray spot that’s usually called Mongolian spots. Congenital moles are mostly harmless, but there is a marked risk for developing melanoma if the mole is large (having a diameter of over 20 centimeters). Having a giant congenital nevus increases the chance of developing melanoma anywhere from 4.5% to 10%, with other studies suggesting an even higher percentage. (2) If your child has such a mole, you should immediately meet with an experienced dermatologist, such as Dr. F. Victor Rueckl of Lakes Dermatology.
Another mole type is the dysplastic mole, which is a classification for moles that do not look like normal moles. They may be asymmetrical, have an irregular border, have more than one color, or have a larger diameter. A spitz nevus is a mole that resembles melanoma. It is often a raised, dome-shaped lesion that is pink in color. It can bleed, ooze through an opening, and have a mix of colors. Most spitz nevi occur during the first two decades of a person’s life, but any appearance of them should have one scheduling an examination with a medical professional, such as Dr. F. Victor Rueckl of Lakes Dermatology in Las Vegas, to make sure that everything is ok.
Moles can serve as an early warning system for melanoma. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and the American Cancer Society estimated that around 76,000 cases of melanoma were diagnosed in 2014. (3) One can check for melanoma by using the ABCDE rule. These rules are:
A – Asymmetry: This occurs when one half of a mole does not match the other half.
B – Border: Check to see if the edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular.
C – Color: Most moles are uniform in color. Look to see if the color changes or if there are different colors in the same mole.
D – Diameter: Most moles are equal to or smaller than the size of a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch). Be on the lookout if a mole is larger than that size.
E – Evolving: If the mole changes in size, shape, or color, then meet with a medical doctor to let them know.
Moles are a fact of life, and something that people shouldn’t worry excessively over. As Dr. F. Victor Rueckl of Lakes Dermatology notes, “Most people have a number of moles upon their skin that started in childhood. It’s quite normal that children develop moles, but it is wise to keep track of their development to ensure that any warning signs are not missed. Melanoma is a very treatable cancer if caught early, so use the ABCDE rule to regularly give yourself a checkup. If you spot something troubling, schedule an appointment with a doctor immediately as there’s no time to waste.” (4)
Most of us have moles, and they develop early on in our life. While most moles will remain benign, it behooves us to keep a wary eye on them to ensure that all stays well. Still, there’s a healthy distinction between being aware and being obsessive. There’s no reason to panic if a new mole appears. If you do feel that there’s a cause for concern, them make sure you consult an experienced doctor, such as Dr. F. Victor Rueckl of Lakes Dermatology in Las Vegas, to put your mind at ease.
4) Quote from Dr. F. Victor Rueckl, dermatologist at Lakes Dermatology