Moles are growths on the skin which are formed by groups of cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes are what gives the skin its natural pigment when melanocytes are grouped together they form moles. Moles are extremely common and help to make us unique individuals, in fact, some of the world’s most beautiful women, such as Cindy Crawford and Marilyn Monroe, have facial moles which enhance their look. For some people though, moles can be a cause for concern, either because of potential health issues or because a person is particularly self-conscious about a mole.
What is a ‘normal’ mole?
Moles are usually round or oval, can be flat or raised, usually have a smooth surface and are symmetrical. They can vary in size from the size of a pinprick to a few centimetres wide. For comparison purposes, most moles are usually under 5mm which is roughly the same size as an eraser on the end of a pencil. Moles can be found anywhere on the body but usually occur on areas exposed to the sun. Moles have a consistent colour which can range from pink to brown.
When should you be concerned about a mole?
Most moles are completely harmless but the skin in and around a mole does have an increased risk of developing melanoma. Signs to look out for include itching or bleeding; the mole changing shape, particularly if the shape becomes uneven; hardening or changes in colour.
How can you monitor changes in a mole?
As with many other cancers, checking yourself regularly is the best way to spot cancer early. Check yourself from head to toe, using a mirror for hard to see areas and make sure to check areas such as the soles of the feet and the scalp, which might not be as obvious to check. Taking pictures of your moles is a really easy way to check changes in them over time to compare moles month on month for example.
When examining your moles, follow the ABCDE checklist below:
A – Asymmetry – Do both sides of the mole look the same?
B – Border – Is the border uneven or poorly defined?
C – Colour – Is the colour uneven?
D – Diameter – Is the mole larger than 5mm?
E – Evolving – Has the mole changed size, shape or colour?
What are the options for mole removal?
If you have visited your GP because you’re concerned about a mole then they will most likely refer you to a Dermatologist, if the mole isn’t cancerous or abnormal then it will be unlikely to be removed on the NHS. Visiting a private GP will not only mean that you will be seen more quickly than on the NHS but even if your mole isn’t abnormal, you can still choose to have it removed for cosmetic purposes. The NHS will rarely remove a mole for cosmetic reasons which is why it’s worth speaking to a Private Cosmetic Surgeon if you’re self-conscious or concerned and are thinking about mole removal.