Keeping track of your newfound mole should be a priority.
Moles are totally normal. Most adults have at least a few, and the lighter your skin tone, the more moles you’re likely to have.
In most cases, moles are nothing to worry about, especially if you’ve had them since childhood or adolescence, which is when moles first tend to appear. They can darken or lighten, and neither occurrence is necessarily a sign of melanoma.
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Consider your own self-awareness the first line of defense: When a new mole does appear, it should remain the same size, shape and color. If it doesn’t, then it warrants a visit to your dermatologist.
Your dermatologist won’t necessarily remove or biopsy it, but they can take a photo or note its size and location in order to track it over time.
“Let’s say there’s a person with a mole that’s not quite bad enough to warrant a biopsy, and maybe it hasn’t changed over time,” said David Eric Sawcer, MD, who is an assistant professor of clinical dermatology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a dermatologist at Keck Medicine of USC. “If there’s a picture in the chart, it’s very easy to note when any change occurs.”
These photographs can also help dermatologists like Dr. Sawcer keep track of an area with a lot of moles. “It’s like a star map. You can easily tell if you’ve picked up a new one or see if one has changed over time,” he explained. “Without the photographs, it can be very difficult to tell this in people who have lots of moles.”
Even if you don’t notice a new mole or worrisome change, you should still have an annual skin check with your dermatologist. They can find overlooked spots and check areas that you may have missed or can’t easily see, particularly if they have reference photos in hand.
And, new or not, if your mole has any of the ABCDEs — that is, asymmetry, irregular border (particularly those that are ragged, notched or blurred), varied color (different shades of brown or patchy), large diameter (bigger than 6 mm, about the size of a pencil eraser) or it’s evolving — schedule an appointment. These are the most common signs of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. It’s worth catching, and addressing, early.
A new mole doesn’t have to be immediate cause for concern. As long as you know what to look for and when to see your dermatologist, there’s no need to worry.
By Deanna Pai
If you’re in Southern California and are concerned about your skin, make an appointment with one of our primary care physicians at Keck Medicine of USC. To schedule an appointment, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit dermatology.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.