A mole, also known as a benign melanocytic naevus, is a harmless accumulation of pigment cells (melanocytes) in the skin. These pigment cells, while present throughout the skin, are more densely clustered in moles. Moles can vary in appearance, from being completely flat and dark (junctional naevus) to slightly raised and brown (compound naevus), or even fleshy and matching the skin color (intradermal naevus).
When Do Moles Develop?
Most moles do not appear at birth but develop starting around the second year of life and continue to emerge until middle age. Approximately one in a hundred babies is born with a pigmented mole birthmark, known as a congenital melanocytic naevus. However, adults can also develop new moles in their 30s and 40s. It’s important to monitor new moles closely during this time to ensure they do not exhibit any warning signs of skin cancer.
Concerns About Changing Moles
Moles typically change gradually with age, often becoming lighter and more raised over time. Pregnancy can also cause changes in moles for many women, which is considered normal. However, if you notice a new mole or changes in an existing mole, it’s essential to exercise caution as this could potentially indicate malignant melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. Remember the golden rule: “If in doubt, get the mole checked out.” If you have any concerns about a mole, it’s advisable to consult your GP who can refer you to an NHS or private dermatologist for further evaluation.
Monitoring Your Moles
Similar to how individuals are encouraged to perform self-examinations for breast and testicular cancers, it’s beneficial to regularly monitor your skin and develop a mental image of your moles. Skin cancer presents a unique opportunity for early detection as it is visible externally in its early stages. A practical approach is to use a full-length mirror to examine your skin without clothing every 3-4 months. Additionally, consider enlisting the help of a partner to monitor moles on hard-to-see areas like your back. Early detection of skin cancer significantly increases the chances of successful treatment.
In conclusion, understanding the development, types, and changes of moles after the age of 40 is crucial for early detection of potential skin cancer. Regular monitoring and prompt evaluation of any new or changing moles are essential steps in maintaining skin health and well-being. By staying informed and proactive, individuals can take proactive measures to safeguard their skin and overall health.
Are all moles harmful?
No, most moles are harmless. However, it’s crucial to monitor any changes as they could indicate skin cancer.
Can moles develop in older adults?
Yes, adults can develop new moles in their 30s and 40s, but any new or changing moles should be closely monitored.
How often should I check my moles?
It’s recommended to examine your moles every 3-4 months, especially if you notice any changes or new growths.
Can pregnancy affect moles?
Yes, many women notice changes in their moles during pregnancy, but it’s typically normal. However, still, monitor any changes closely.
Are all changing moles a sign of skin cancer?
No, but any changes in moles should be evaluated by a healthcare professional to rule out skin cancer.