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How do I know what skin moles to worry about?

Heartland Plastic and Hand Surgery welcomes men and women from Sikeston, Poplar Bluff and other nearby cities, including Marion/Carbondale, Illinois.

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 new moles that were not there before appear, those areas should be evaluated by a physician. Regarding most moles in particular, we commonly use the A, B, C, D, E rule. A is for appearance, anything that looks funny, big, bad or ugly, should be checked out. B is for border. Most benign or harmless moles have a very sharp border where we can see where the lesion starts and stops. Changing moles that have fuzzy, blurred or irregular borders, should be evaluated. C is for color. Dark brown, brown, black, red moles, or moles with 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 evaluated in a professional skin exam. E is for evolution. A mole that suddenly starts changing in size, thickness, or color should be pointed out to your physician. Malignant melanoma can develop in pre-existing moles that do change over time, but most melanomas can also occur in areas where a mole did not previously exist. Early detection can prevent harmful symptoms, so you should practice a routine self-head-to-toe check. 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– especially if you have a family history of melanoma. 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 on every type of skin in the spring of 2016.

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