Mole removal? It sounds like something simple, but if you don’t do it on time, it can be really complicated. Find out when it’s time for that!
Moles can simply exist on the body, but when they start to expand or change, it’s time to have some serious time over them.
What are moles and where they most often appear
When we look at the photo of Cindy Crawford, the first thing we notice, of course, in addition to her beauty, is the mole above her lip. No, it didn’t diminish her beauty at all, what’s more, the whole world knows her by it.
Not infrequently, mole is a sign of recognition, which marks the whole life of the person who has it. Today, however, due to almost daily warnings about skin cancer, they have become a concern of many people, especially those who like to spend summer days in the sun.
The moles are small colored spots on the skin. These, mostly benign changes on the skin, are usually brown or black.
They can appear anywhere on the skin, individually or in groups. They can be flat or raised, smooth or rough, and some have hairs growing from them. The moles are usually round or oval with smooth edges.
These growths occur when melanin cells in the skin grow in a cluster, instead of spreading through the skin. These cells are actually a pigment that gives the skin its natural color.
Most moles appear in childhood and during the first 30 years of a person’s life, but they can also appear later. Their normal number on the skin of an adult is between 10 and 40.
Color and appearance can change over the years, and some even disappear over time without us even noticing. They can darken after exposure to the sun, during adolescence, and during pregnancy.
When these changes occur, we wonder if they are good and normal. Or maybe it’s time to remove the mole after all?
Types of moles and skin cancer
Moles generally differ in shape, size and color. Most of them are not dangerous. A typical, common mole is usually up to 5 mm wide, i.e. the width of the eraser on the pencil.
It is round or oval in shape, has a smooth surface with clear edges, and is often dome-shaped. It is mostly uniform in color, pink, brown or beige. People who have dark skin or hair, tend to have darker moles than people with light skin or blonde hair.
Are all these moles benign or can some of them get so “angry” and start causing us problems? We may be able to see some changes, but which one tells us that the mole should be removed or that it is so dangerous that it can cause skin cancer?
Cells that have altered DNA structure and multiply unnaturally in the skin are melanoma cells, which cause skin cancer. These cells can multiply on already existing, harmless moles, but they can also be formed as new ones.
Of course, this does not mean that every growth will turn into cancer.
Those moles which look different from other existing ones or those which first appear after the age of 30 are more likely to turn into cancer. Not so often, moles are present at birth, i.e. on the skin of newborn babies.
They are called congenital moles, and they only occur in 1 out of 100 babies. They are more likely to develop into melanoma (cancer) than those that appear after birth.
Although typical moles are not cancerous, people over 50 have an increased chance of developing melanoma. However, they very rarely turn into melanoma, but it is never a bad idea to check.
Atypical moles are usually larger than average (larger than an eraser on a pencil), i.e. wider than 5 mm and irregular in shape. They tend to be uneven in color, with dark brown centers and light, uneven edges.
These moles are more likely to become melanoma. Those who have 5, 10 and more of those have a 12 times higher chance of developing melanoma and a serious form of skin cancer.
Atypical moles can appear anywhere on the body, but they usually occur in areas of the skin that are more exposed to the sun, such as the back and arms.
However, they can also occur in areas that are not exposed to the sun, such as the scalp, under the hair, breast and areas below the waist.
Even atypical moles do not usually turn into melanoma. Most remain stable over time.
Are red moles dangerous?
Small red moles on the skin are actually small collections of blood vessels near the surface of the skin, i.e. parts of dilated blood vessels. They are very common in people of all races. They usually begin to appear in adults during their 30s or 40s, and their number often increases with age.
However, recent research shows that these growths also occur in young people, and more and more often in children, even newborn babies. They are not cancerous, but because they consist of blood vessels, they tend to bleed if injured. They appear suddenly, and they can also disappear suddenly.
Basically, red moles appear on parts of the skin that are not exposed to the sun, such as the armpits, genitals and heel area, but they also appear on the chest, back, upper arms, legs and even the face.
The cause of red moles is still not known for sure. Unlike others, they are considered to be hereditary. If your ancestors had harmless red moles, you probably will too.
They can have different colors and sizes. They are generally smooth and convex about 1 mm, and can grow up to 1 to 4 mm in width. The color can vary from burgundy, bright red or blood-red.
Recently, experts have agreed that their appearance signals the existence of a certain imbalance in the body, which occurs due to a certain lifestyle. As one of the main causes of red moles are problems with liver function.
Poor diet and unhealthy habits contribute to the body, which starts accumulating excess toxins in the liver or intestines and thus negatively affects their functioning.
Modern lifestyle, high exposure to stress, more and more frequent occurrence of depressive and anxiety states can be factors that make them appear on the skin more and more often.
In women, hormonal disorders can cause red moles. They can appear suddenly during pregnancy or menstruation, but they can also disappear suddenly after these conditions.
Like others, these moles appear due to excessive sun exposure, i.e. because our skin gets too much UVA rays.
These growths are mostly harmless and if they are removed, it is usually done for aesthetic reasons.
However, in very rare situations, when they appear in large numbers or are larger than 5 mm, of uneven dimensions, structure, color and irregular shape (asymmetrical) and edges, as well as in case of injury and bleeding, you should immediately consult a dermatologist.
He will see if their removal is necessary and advise what to do in that case.
Do a skin self-examination
If a mole is causing a problem, you will usually decide to remove it. However, the removal of the mole is preceded by an examination, which you can do yourself at home.
The Foundation for the Fight Against Skin Cancer recommends that we all do a self-examination of the skin from head to toe once a month, so that we can notice any changes on the skin, which could be cancerous or precancerous.
Melanoma cells do not multiply quickly, so skin cancer that is detected in time and removed early is almost always curable.
For self-examination, you need: strong light, a large mirror in which the whole figure can be seen, a smaller hand mirror, 2 chairs, a hair dryer, a body map and a pencil. You need to be naked, and you can call your partner for help.
Perform the self-examination in 8 steps:
- Examine your face, especially your nose, lips, mouth and ears – front and back. Use one or both mirrors to have a clear view.
- Thoroughly examine your head, using a hair dryer to remove hair and a mirror, so that you can examine every part of it. Invite someone to help you, if you can, to make the examination as thorough as possible.
- Carefully check your hands: palms and upper arms, between the fingers and under the nails. Continue over the wrists and examine the front and back of the forearms.
- Stand in front of a large mirror, starting at the elbows and inspecting all sides of the upper arm. Don’t forget the armpit area.
- Then focus on the neck, chest, torso. Women should lift their breasts to see the underside.
- Turn your back to the large mirror and use the hand mirror to examine the back of the neck, shoulders, upper back and back of the upper arms that you could not see in step 4.
- Using both mirrors, examine the lower back, buttocks and back of both legs.
- Sit down on one chair, lift one leg and then the other to the other chair. Use a hand mirror to examine your genitals. Look at both legs front and back, then the thighs, ankles, the tips of the feet, the skin between the toes and under the toenails. Finally, examine the soles and heels.
During the first self-examination, place a dot on the body map in the appropriate place, where every mole, scab, wound, stain, growth is located on your skin… Mark its approximate size and color, as well as the date of examination.
At each subsequent examination, find all the marked areas on the body and see if there are any changes in the size, color or shape of the mole and what happens to everything you draw. Also, see if you have new moles and record them.
When examining moles, those who know English can use this language and the so-called ABCDE method, it is easier to remember how to identify irregularities that need to be checked by a doctor.
Asymmetry – asymmetry, mole that is uneven, irregular in shape
Border – borders, mole with irregular edges
Color – a color that varies from one area of the mole to another
Diameter – diameter, mole of larger diameter than an eraser on a pencil
Evolving – the development, change in color, shape or size of the mole over time.
The first thing to do if you discover something unusual is to stay calm. Small changes in the skin do not necessarily indicate skin cancer.
Make an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist, so that he or she can perform tests, which will determine the cause of your skin change and recommend removing the mole or some other treatment.
Doctors suggest that it is ideal to have a self-examination once a month, but more often in case of major changes. It may be helpful for you that the doctor does the first examination, to assure you that all existing spots, freckles or moles are normal.
If he finds any irregularities, the removal of the mole will probably be the next thing he will recommend.
After the first few times, the self-examination should not last more than 10 minutes. It is, we will all agree, a small investment in what could save our lives.
Examination by a doctor and removal of moles
Skin with atypical moles should be examined by a doctor. Sometimes it is necessary to take photos of some of them, so that the changes that occur over time are easier to see and thus better monitored.
For people with many (more than five) atypical moles, doctors can examine the skin once or twice a year. For those with a family history of melanoma, doctors may suggest more frequent skin tests, such as every 3 to 6 months.
Any changes in the moles should be checked by a dermatologist, who will assess whether it is skin cancer.
Be sure to see your doctor if you notice any of the following changes: discoloration, if the mole begins to shrink or increase, changes shape, texture or height, becomes heavy or lumpy, begins to itch, bleed or leak, and if the skin on the surface becomes dry or scaly.
The doctor examines the mole with the help of a special device, a magnifying glass called a dermoscope. Dermoscopic examination is painless and short and at the same time very effective, so it can detect up to 95% of melanoma.
With the help of a dermoscope, changes in the skin are magnified and in that way details are noticed that are sometimes not visible to the naked eye.
In recent years, the world has also used digital photography, in which changes in the skin are magnified up to 100 times with the help of computers, and their degree of risk is determined with great precision.
If the dermatologist considers that the mole is risky and should be further processed or removed completely, he can remove it completely or first take only a small sample of tissue and examine it under a microscope, i.e. do a biopsy.
If the tissue is found to be cancerous, and only a small part of the tissue is taken, the dermatologist will remove it with a simple operation.
Removing this mole includes a part that is above the skin, visible, as well as its root in the skin, along with part of the skin around him, to make sure he removed all the infected cells, and then he would close the wound by stitching it. If the mole reappears at the same place, it is obligatory to visit the doctor again.
A doctor or patient can sometimes ask for the removal of a mole which is not risky, sometimes for aesthetic reasons, but also when it interferes with normal daily activities and is constantly injured by clothes, a razor, a comb…
If it reappears in the same place after removal, then it is obligatory to contact a doctor, because that indicates the possibility of melanoma. It is important to note that moles, no matter how small and risk-free, should never be removed on your own, at home, but only a doctor can do that in hospital premises,
How to protect moles and skin from possible cancer?
If you don’t want to have to think about whether removing the moles is necessary or not, you can do a few things yourself that will prevent them from appearing.
Take measures to protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, from the sun and solarium, because UV rays are closely associated with an increased risk of melanoma. Avoid staying in the sun in the hottest part of the day, as well as excessive sun exposure.
Use sunscreen cream all year round. Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outside, even when it is cloudy. Use a sunscreen with a high protection factor, at least 15, apply it every two hours or more often if you swim or sweat a lot.
Cover your body. Sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved and long-legged cotton clothes can help you avoid skin damage and possible removal of moles, and should be your obligatory props, especially during the summer.
Avoid sunbathing in the solarium, because they emit UV rays and can increase the risk of skin cancer. If you really want to use it, before going to the solarium, apply a special sunscreen, which is used for sunbathing in the solarium, and additionally protect larger moles by covering them with a thicker patch.
It is recommended that everyone should protect their skin from the sun and stay away from solariums. This is especially important for people who have atypical moles, for whom it is even more important to protect the skin and avoid tanning and burns.
This will prevent possible surgical interventions that involve the removal of moles and, of course, skin cancer as one of the worst consequences.