Do you have a few moles on your body? Should you be concerned if one changes color? Find out what you need to know about the signs of malignant melanoma.
Most people have a few moles on their body – and some have as many as a hundred or more. Moles are more common in light skinned people, although anyone can have them – regardless of skin type. Some people are born with moles, while others acquire them during childhood or as a young adult. People who have a greater number of acquired moles are at a higher risk of developing a malignancy that arises from moles called malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma is a serious form of cancer and it can be lifesaving to know the signs of this common malignancy. What if a mole changes color? Should you be concerned?
When a mole changes color, it’s always a cause for concern. Mole color changes can be the first sign of malignant melanoma. Unlike most skin cancers which rarely become life threatening, malignant melanoma can quickly spread into the deeper tissues and metastasize to other areas of the body – and the incidence of malignant melanoma is growing in frequency as people spend more time in the sun. Observing moles for signs of malignant melanoma such as color change is important to pick them up early when they can be successfully treated.
What kind of mole color changes are important? Any change in the color of a mole should be brought to the attention of a doctor. When a mole undergoes a color change to become a malignant melanoma it usually becomes darker in color and may develop shades of pink, red, blue, or white. The color may spread outside the normal boundaries of the mole causing it to look irregular. Mole color changes associated with itching, swelling, bleeding, or crusting are particularly suspicious.
What are other signs of malignant melanoma? Although a malignant melanoma can arise from an existing mole, it can also appear de nova – so it’s important to be alert to any suspicious skin changes. Other signs that a mole may be undergoing a malignant change include borders that become irregular or assymetrical, moles that change from flat to elevated, changes in texture, or any change in size. Any change in the appearance of a mole needs to be evaluated.
The bottom line? When a mole turns a new color or develops new spots of color, it should never be ignored. Detecting a malignant melanoma early can be lifesaving. Do regular skin checks to make sure pre-existing moles aren’t changing and that no new suspicious skin spots have developed.