How To Tell If You Have A “Bad” Mole

A mole on the skinQ: I know there are different types of moles. How can I know the difference between a “good” mole and a “bad” one? – K. Stewart

A mole or nevus is a dark, raised spot on our skin comprised of skin cells that have grown in a group rather than individually. These cells are called melanocytes and are responsible for producing melanin, the pigment (color) in our skin.

Moles can form from sun exposure, but we are also born with them, inheriting them genetically. Although number of moles varies from person to person, people with lower amounts of melanin in their skin have more moles. The average adult has between 10 and 40 moles. Moles can even come and go with hormonal changes such as pregnancy or puberty.

If you notice new moles that were not there before, it is best you go to the dermatologist. They can determine good moles from bad moles and let you know which moles you need to watch for changes.

The dermatologist may perform a biopsy on your moles to confirm if they are in the beginning stages of skin cancer. Please remember that even people with melanin in their skin need to use sunscreen to protect the skin from skin cancer.

Cancerous Mole Signs

Check your freckles and moles every 30 days — take note of what they look like and if any of them have changed. Change can mean a potential problem.
During your monthly mole monitoring, use the ABCDE method from the American Academy of Dermatology:

Asymmetrical: When you draw a line down the middle of your mole, the two sides should mirror each other.
Irregular Border: Moles should have a definite border. Melanoma borders usually have notches or scallop shapes.
Changes in color: A mole might be dangerous if you notice the color isn’t consistent throughout.
Diameter: A mole should be no larger than ¼ inch (6.35 mm) in diameter.
Evolving: A mole that sometimes changes in shape, color, height or texture is suspect. If you develop a new mole and it starts to itch or burn, it could be a sign that it’s not healthy.