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Moles and cancer

Moles and cancer

Congenital moles are present from birth, although some types occur within the first year. Congenital moles are the accumulation of melanocytes in the skin. Their size may vary from a few-millimeter to giant ones. There are two main congenital mole types: brownish or black spots – the result of redundant pigment; red moles on skin - the web of thin blood-vessels. Some of the red moles are also called hemangiomas. In most cases the congenital ones are the non cancerous moles.

Acquired moles are small (up to 1 cm) pigmented spots or nodules (papules) with clearly seen borderlines, consisting of accumulations of melanocytes in the skin. Usually, they occur in childhood, reaching the peak in adolescence; later the involution begins and they start disappearing after sixties.

Depending on the location of pigmented cells (melanocytes), there are three types of moles distinguished:

  • Junctional moles are the type of moles featuring pigmented spots; melanocytes localize at the basal membrane (basal membrane is a kind of the boundary between the epidermis and derma).
  • Compound moles are pigmented formations raised on the skin; melanocytes are above and under the basal membrane.
  • Dermal moles are the ones of light brown or body color raised on the skin; melanocytes are found only in the derma.

Atypical moles (Dysplastic Nevi) may be divided into a separate category.

Atypical moles are moles featuring cytologic and architectonic atypia properties. Atypical moles are precancerous moles. This does not mean that such moles will necessarily become malignant, but the risk is higher compared to usual types of moles.

Not all of the moles become malignant but there are several warning signs of cancerous moles. When should you be worried?

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  • when new moles appear, especially if you are over 40;
  • moles enlarge significantly;
  • when you notice moles that itch;
  • mole color changes,
  • a mole becomes asymmetric,
  • a mole bleeds or weeps,
  • a mole is larger than 5mm. 

The severest form of skin cancer is melanoma. Are there any features that only melanoma moles have?

A (asymmetric) – asymmetric moles
B (borders) – moles having anomalous borders
C (colors) – moles of various colors
D (diameter) – moles greater than 6mm in size
E (evolution) – moles that tend to enlarge quickly