Sunspots on a senior's hands

Seeing spots?

That dark brown mole on your back may be more than "just a mole."

The average person has between 10 and 40 moles.

The number of moles you have can change throughout your life, as new moles can develop and some may disappear as you age.  But what exactly are they, and where do they come from?  Moles are small, colored spots made of melanocytes, which are cells that make the pigment of your skin.

Though most moles are harmless, it is important to keep an eye on them in case they develop into abnormal moles—called dysplastic nevi—that have the possibility of becoming cancerous. 

You may be uncertain if a mole is cancerous or not, which is why it’s important to visit your primary care physician or dermatologist each year for a full-body skin exam. In between those exams, look yourself over when you get out of the shower to be on the lookout for any new or alarming moles.

Use the ABCDE method to remember what to check for:

  • A – Asymmetry
  • B – Border Irregularity
  • C – Color Change
  • D – Diameter
  • E – Evolving

Though most are harmless, some moles can develop into melanoma, or skin cancer. Melanomas often appear suddenly and are dark and fast-growing. 

You should also let your doctor know if you have a mole that is painful, itching, burning, inflamed, oozing, or bleeding, as these symptoms can also be a sign of melanoma. 

When you do your self-examination, make sure you check your entire body, as moles can appear anywhere, even around your ears, scalp, and underarms; bottoms of your feet, between toes, and under your nails. 

Check GibbsCancerCenter.org for upcoming skin cancer screenings

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