20 May 2020
How do you know if a skin mole is dangerous? And is it best to remove raised and worried moles? Most moles are harmless, but as around 20 to 30 percent of cancerous moles develop in existing skin tags, knowing what to look out for is essential in the early detection of melanoma. While mole removal is relatively simple, it’s vital to act quickly if a skin tag is a threat to your health.
Moles are very common and most of us have one or more. They are concentrations of pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) and people with light skin tend to have more skin tags than people with darker skin. While freckles tend to emerge in childhood and adolescence, they change in size and color as we grow. New skin tags often occur when we are going through hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy.
Most benign skin tags are small and usually brown, tan, or pink with a distinct edge and symmetrical shape. A raised freckles may bother you if it affects your appearance but it is not necessarily a sign of melanoma unless it was previously flat. If you notice changes in your freckles or new, unusual skin tags that are rapidly increasing in size, it is time to get your skin tag checked by a dermatologist.
A is for asymmetrical. A skin tag with an irregular size shape is abnormal. It should be round or oval, with both sides matching if you were to draw a line through the middle.
B is for the border. Does your skin tag have an irregular, scalloped, blurry or jagged border? Common moles tend to have even borders.
C is for color. Does your skin moles have uneven color or multiple colors? Benign skin tags are a single color but melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan, or black. Red, white or blue may also appear in a melanoma.
D is for diameter or dark. Are your freckles larger than a pea? If so you will need to get it checked. Equally, any mole that is darker than others could be a sign of melanoma.
E is for evolving. Has your skin condition changed recently? Familiarise yourself with the appearance of your moles so you can notice changes as they occur.
Most normal skin moles resemble one another, whereas melanomas standout from the rest like an ‘ugly duckling’. To compare any suspicious skin tags to the ones around it. Is it larger, smaller, lighter, or darker than your other skin tags? Equally a mole that has no other moles near it could be a warning sign of melanoma.
An itchy mole, along with other changes like crusting, oozing, and bleeding can be a sign of melanoma. However, itchiness can sometimes be caused by irritation of nerves in the skin due to exposure to the sun. Products applied to your skin, dryness of your skin, or the rubbing of a raised mole by your clothing or a seatbelt.
As skin cancer comes in many forms it’s important to monitor your skin moles and watch out for any changes to them, any that become sore, larger, or become swollen or newly itchy. Also, look out for any new skin moles or freckles. While it’s normal for new skin moles to appear up to the age of 40, beyond that age it is a worrying sign. Check your skin for changes every month and have a yearly mole checkup with your dermatologist.
You can have a skin tag removed if you don’t like the way it looks or it irritates you. You may have a raised or unsightly freckles that affect your appearance, gets irritated when it rubs against your clothes, or gets in the way when you shave or get dressed. It is important that the doctor chooses the best surgical technique for 2 reasons: for removing the existing mole successfully but also for the best cosmetic result.
If you are worried about skin moles or are unhappy about their appearance, I can give you peace of mind. I’m able to give the majority of my patients a clear answer about what their skin lesion is and only when necessary will I recommend removing the skin tag for analysis (testing it under the microscope). I am able to remove moles using techniques that leave minimal scarring. Contact me, Dr Anastasia Therianou, consultant dermatologist for hair loss and mole problems.
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