Moles are overgrowths of melanocytes (a type of skin cell) almost all of us have moles however they aren’t normally present at birth; they appear in childhood and early teenage years. By the age of 15, the number of moles we develop is determined by genetic factors and our level of exposure to the sun.1

While most moles never turn into a Melanoma, some do, researchers have found some gene changes inside mole cells that may cause them to become melanoma cells, however it’s still not known why some moles become cancerous whilst others don’t.2 The more moles a person has, the higher the chances are of getting Melanoma.

There are many types of moles however there is a particular type of mole you should pay particular attention to. Dysplastic moles (atypical moles) are unusual benign moles that may resemble Melanoma, those who have them are at increased risk of developing the disease.

Dysplastic moles look different to ordinary moles. See your dermatologist immediately if you think you have moles with the following ‘dysplastic’ characteristics:

  • The border or edges of the mole are jagged, blurred, or irregular.
  • The mole has different colours or it has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red.
  • Crustiness, itchiness, pain or bleeding, inflammation or even scabbing.
  • The diameter of the mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil.
  • The mole appears different from others and/or changing in size, colour, shape 3

Although you may notice one of these characteristics it does not necessarily mean that you have skin cancer, however it is important that you visit your doctor to have them investigated further.

Dr Alian found this tiny 2-3mm Melanoma on a 37 year old patient here at [SCA]. This picture shows how it can be difficult for the average person, or even a GP to identify a skin cancer.

The Melanoma looked like other moles until it was scanned over with a microscope.


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