The Dotted Line: How To Figure Out If Your Moles Are Dangerous

Posted on: 5 July 2016

Moles – separate from freckles in that they tend to be darker, don't cluster in groups, and can appear on any part of your body – aren't generally anything to worry about, but in an age where skin cancer is so prevalent, it's understandable that you may freak out when you notice a new one pop up. But how do you know which moles should get checked out and which ones are just a normal part of your body? If you're looking for a beginner's guide to figuring out if a mole is dangerous, then here's what you need to know.

Calculate the Capacity

Yes, moles of any size could potentially be a problem, as it's not size alone that determines if a mole is cancerous or not, but cancerous moles tend to be much bigger than non-cancerous moles. If you have a ruler lying around the house, try to measure the mole (or, if it's in a hard to reach area, have someone else use the ruler to measure the mole). Most cancerous moles are bigger than 6 millimeters in diameter, so chances are good if your mole is smaller than that, you're fine. If you discover the mole on the go or without a ruler but you still want to measure it right away, try the pencil trick; erasers on regular-sized pencils (mechanical or otherwise) are a bit bigger than 6mm themselves, so if the mole is completely covered up with you put the pencil eraser on it, you know that it's probably too small to be dangerous.

Check the Color

Moles can be black, brown, and tan, but once you stray outside those colors, you may be looking at trouble. Colors like white, grey, blue, and red are all colors that shouldn't be present on a healthy, benign mole, and are cause for a visit to your doctor at your earliest convenience. However, even if your mole isn't an unusual color, you still should inspect it thoroughly. Moles that are uneven or patchy in color are just as suspect as those that turn different colors of the rainbow; if you have patches or different colors present on a mole, you should get it checked out by a dermatologist.

Consider the Clock

The most important sign of a mole turning bad, however, is that it changes over time. This change indicates a change in health below the surface of your skin as well as on top of it, and means you should go get the mole in question checked ASAP. This is also why it's important you do regular skin checks; not only can they catch a problem mole early, but they also give you a basis of comparison so that you know when a mole suddenly looks different than it did a month ago. Contact a doctor who offers skin cancer surgery for more information.