The average adult can have as many as 40 moles on their body. Unfortunately, with those moles come concerns about the potential for skin cancer and other problems. It is important that you keep a watch on any moles you have so that you can spot the warning signs of skin cancer early. Here's a look at what you should know about the changes you need to watch for and tips to help you monitor your moles more consistently.
What Warning Signs Are There?
There are several key changes that you should watch for with any mole on your body.
- Asymmetrical Growth - The natural growth pattern of a mole is symmetrical. That means that it should produce a mirror image when you view it as though it were two halves. If you have a mole that is growing faster in one area than it is another, that may indicate some form of outgrowth that could be cancerous.
- Inconsistent Coloring - Moles should be uniform in color at all times. Any time you notice a change in the color of a mole, including things like dark brown, grey or red areas developing, it's time to reach out to a dermatologist.
- Irregular Border Development - Most moles are clearly defined with sharp edges. If you have moles with borders that have become hazy or poorly defined, that's an indication that the mole itself is changing or growing, which may indicate skin cancer.
- Increasing Diameter - Most moles maintain a fairly consistent diameter, not changing at all once you reach adulthood. If you notice that a mole of yours has grown larger over time, the change in diameter could be an indication of cancerous cell growth.
How Can You Monitor Mole Changes?
The best way to monitor the changes in your moles is to take pictures of them so that you have something to clearly compare. While it's easy enough to get pictures of your arms, legs and chest, taking pictures of your back can be more challenging.
You'll need a helper to be sure that you get clear, consistent pictures every time. Take your shirt off and have your helper use a makeup pencil to divide your back into four or six different segments. To do this, draw a line down the center of your back, along your spine. Then, draw horizontal lines to create sections. For four quadrants, draw a horizontal line across the center of your back. For six sections, divide your back in thirds with lines at evenly spaced increments.
Stand facing a light-colored wall with bright, consistent light. Have your helper take pictures of each individual space, using care to get only the skin, no background. If there are any concerning moles in a section, have your helper take close-up macro pictures of the mole. Measure it and write the measurement on your back beside the mole before the picture, that way you can track the size in each subsequent set of pictures.
Save your pictures in a dedicated folder on your hard drive. Repeat this process once a month and compare the pictures against the previous set to mark any changes. If you see any progressive changes in a mole, you should reach out to your dermatologist right away. Have your pictures printed at a local photo shop so that you can bring them with you. This provides your dermatologist with a clear record of the changes that you are concerned about.
With the tips presented here, you'll be able to not only monitor your moles but also know exactly what kinds of changes to watch for. If you are uncertain about any mole you see or you believe that you've developed a new one, call your dermatologist right away and ask about mole removal.