Moles are formed by the pigment producing cells in the skin called melanocytes. When the melanocytes form groups or “nests”, they produce brown bumps and dots called moles. Although there is no ideal number of moles to have, the more moles a man has the higher the risk of melanoma skin cancer. In other words, a man with 50 moles is at higher risk for melanoma than a man with 2 moles.
It turns out men are much more likely than women to die from melanoma. According to a scientific article published in JAMA Dermatology, young men account for 40 percent of melanoma cases, but more than 60 percent of melanoma deaths. What’s more, an estimated 6,280 men in the US will die from melanoma every year.
Moles are mainly induced to grow in response to sun exposure (a quick test you can do is to look at your inner arm skin and compare the number of moles to the outer arm skin). Protecting your skin from the sun and avoiding tanning beds is a fool-proof way to lower your melanoma risk.
So what do you look for to determine if a mole is cancerous or not? First, it is not normal for a man to get a new mole after the age of 50. If you do, you should get it checked by a board-certified dermatologist ASAP. Another good rule of thumb is the “ABCDE” rule. This translates to:
- A: Asymmetry: If one half of a mole does not look like the other half, that is a warning sign.
- B: Border: If a mole has a ragged, scalloped, or uneven border, that is a warning sign.
- C: Color: Normal moles are an even brown or tan color. If a mole is red, blue, black, or white, call your board-certified dermatologist.
- D: Diameter: If the mole is larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser, that is a warning sign.
- E: Evolution: A normal mole will not change. If a mole grows, becomes painful, starts to bleed, or behaves in any other unusual ways, that is a warning sign.
Another way to spot a cancerous mole is the “ugly duckling” sign. For example, if a man has 20 brown moles on his back that are all about the same size and shape, then suddenly gets a black spot that is twice as big, the black spot is the “ugly duckling”. In other words, the new spot looks much different than the other spots.
A good way to keep track of moles that develop is to periodically take a photo of the mole with your smart phone. Vorteil recommends against using skin cancer apps. Cancerous moles are too dangerous to rely on an app and it is much more important to seek professional guidance from a board-certified dermatologist.
In addition to checking your skin once a month, all men over the age of 35 should receive a yearly skin cancer screening by a board-certified dermatologist. Studies have shown doing this can decrease your risk from skin cancer.
Vorteil’s Bottom Line: Moles change. See your board-certified dermatologist to protect yourself from a potentially lethal skin cancer.
For a complimentary skin cancer screening, feel free to contact us or call: (949) 276-2600