It is important to know the difference between an ordinary mole and melanoma, since moles may develop into melanoma or indicate an increased risk for melanoma. An ordinary mole is normally an even colour and can be light brown, tan or a black spot on the skin. They can be raised or flat, oval or round. Moles are normally smaller than a quarter of an inch in diameter and can be present at birth or just appear during your childhood or adulthood. Moles can appear on areas of your skin that have had more sun-exposure than others.
Once a mole develops, it normally stays the same size, colour and shape for many years. Most people have moles that are almost always harmless, however it is vital to recognise the changes in your moles that may suggest a melanoma is developing.
The following ABCDE system can help you tell a normal mole from one that could be melanoma, check your self and your family at least once a year and anything suspicious should be seen by your doctor immediately.
- Asymmetry – Melanoma lesions are typically asymmetrical, whereas benign moles are typically round and symmetrical.
- Border – Melanoma lesions frequently have uneven or irregular borders (e.g, ragged or notched edges), and benign moles have smooth, even borders.
- Colour – Melanoma lesions often contain multiple shades of brown or black, whereas benign moles are usually a single shade of brown.
- Diameter – Early melanoma lesions are often more than 6mm in diameter, whereas benign moles are usually less than 6mm in diameter.
- Elevations or Enlargement – look out for moles that seem much bigger or more raised.
Some melanomas do not conform to the A-B-C-D-E criteria, so any supsicious ones should be examined by a Doctor/Dermatologist.
Prevent the damage with the use of a broad spectrum sun-screen at all times whilst in the sun, and do not allow your skin to burn, 3 burns in your lifetime increases you risk of skin-cancer! A teaspoon of sun-screen for your face and a shot glass for your body and re-apply regularly.
For more information visit your local skin cancer specialist, the Skin Cancer Foundation, or your Dermatologist.