How do I know what moles to be concerned about?

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This is a very common question that is asked by patients who come in for a specific lesion or, incidentally, while I am here, can you look at this mole? I commonly tell patients that as far as areas of the skin, if you have a sore that doesn’t heal in 3 – 4 weeks, an area that bleeds every once in a while when you shower, an area where something starts growing, looks funny, gets dark or was not there before, those areas should be evaluated by a physician. Regarding moles in particular, we commonly use the A, B, C, D, E rule. A for appearance, anything that looks funny, big, bad or ugly, should be checked out. B is for border. Most benign or innocent moles have a very sharp border where we can see where the lesion starts and stops. Moles that have a fuzzy, irregular or blurred border, should be evaluated. C is for color. Dark brown, brown and black or more than one color mixed together, again, could be concerning and should be evaluated by a physician. D is for diameter. Any mole that is greater than 1 em or larger than the back of a pencil eraser should be pointed out to a physician for evaluation. E is for evolution. A mole that suddenly starts changing in size, thickness or color should be pointed out to your physician. Melanoma can develop in pre-existing moles that do change over time, but melanoma can also occur in areas where a mole did not previously exist. If a patient notices a new mole on their arm, back or legs that wasn’t there last summer, that is definitely something I would recommend you point out to your physician. Earlier this year we offered a free skin cancer screening clinic that was very well received, and we most likely will be doing another skin cancer screening in the spring of 2016.

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