This post is based on the best information I’ve reviewed, but I am not a trained physician, so if you have any concerns about your health, please see a medical professional and always double-check anything you read.
Most people have moles — dark pigmented spots — somewhere on their skin and we often don’t give them much thought.
Some people may see their moles as unsightly blemishes, whereas others will think of them as beauty spots that add a certain something to their appearance.
However you feel, it’s important to know that there’s always a small risk of a mole becoming cancerous, which can, of course, pose a serious risk to your health.
This is especially the case if you have pale skin and don’t tend to tan easily.
While it may arise more commonly in certain groups, the fact is that anyone — whatever their skin tone — can develop a melanoma, which is a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer.
Melanomas are concerning because, even though they start out on the skin, the cancer has the ability to spread to other areas of the body, which can make it harder to deal with.
So it’s vital that you get diagnosed and treated early, if you spot any concerning signs.
In order to help you, I’ve listed some of the relevant risk factors that you should be looking out for.
Moles are generally a single shade of brown; they can be lighter or darker, but the color will usually be pretty solid.
If a mole is made up of two — or especially three or more — different colors, however, that could possibly indicate the growth of cancer cells.
A normal mole is usually round or oval-shaped, so more unusually shaped moles can sometimes be concerning.
One useful thing you can do is to draw an imaginary line through the middle of the mole in your mind.
Then see how well the two sides match up, and if they look markedly different from each other, that could be a warning sign.
A healthy mole will tend to have clear borders separating it from the rest of your skin.
So uneven and ragged edges are certainly something to look out for.
Changes in Appearance
If you’ve had a mole on your body that’s been there for years, you probably have a good idea of what it usually looks like.
So you’re likely to notice any changes in size or shape.
Keep track of the color, too, and be sure to tell someone if it starts to look significantly different than it ever used to.
Bleeding and Itching
Any kind of unusual sensations coming from your skin — or, for that matter, anywhere else on your body — are always worth getting checked out.
The same goes for bleeding that isn’t caused by an obvious injury.
So if your mole itches or bleeds or crusts over, that is definitely a sign that further investigation is needed.
The itching could be caused by something really simple like folliculitis — inflammation of the hair follicles — but it’s well worth ruling out anything more serious.
If you spot any of the above signs on your skin, don’t panic.
Take a deep breath and remember that you’re unlikely to be have found anything that is going to harm you.
Everyone’s body is different and what might appear troubling on one person can be perfectly healthy on another.
Only a trained professional can tell you what’s normal for you and what’s not.
Moreover, other risk factors are important. For example, many cases of melanoma are related to the use of indoor tanning beds, rather than natural exposure to the sun.
But, whatever your lifestyle, it is encouraging to remember, however, that treatment is improving all the time and cancer is not a death sentence.
Mortality rates from melanoma have dropped significantly in recent years, meaning that the vast majority of people who are diagnosed will ultimately recover and go on to lead happy and healthy lives.
Of course, if you do spot any of the signs I’ve mentioned — or anything else that looks or feels unusual — you should always get in contact with a trained doctor or dermatological specialist, so they can run some simple tests and put your mind to rest.
Taking good care of your own body and watching out for any warning signs will mean that you’re likely to live for longer with better health, which gives you a great opportunity to make the most of your life.