When a patient calls in and says, “I have 5 or so moles, I want you to look them over” I am happy to do it but chances are good that one out of the 5 is actually a mole and the others are (probably) benign skin lesions that most people just call “moles”. A mole (the medical term is nevus) is a collection of pigmented cells called melanocytes. They can be in odd places on the body, they can be acceptable to the patient in a cosmetic kind of way or they can be not at all acceptable. They can be “suspicious” in that they can force you to wonder about a skin cancer.
So when people come in and say, “can you take his off?”, I do it if at all possible. Sometimes I recommend it be sent to a pathologist for identification but sometimes I can tell just by looking that it’s not a dangerous “mole”. You should know that most moles are not cancers.
In general, cancer is ugly… not symmetrical, not having regular borders but irregular(jagged), not one color but sometimes more than one, and cancer tends to change and not stay the same. Benign things are round, regular, may grow but typically slowly over years.
Can a mole turn into cancer? Yes, but it’s fairly rare. That’s why patients want to be “looked at”, they are concerned that the small mole that they noticed a few months ago is changing and looking different. A mole just doesn’t become cancer one day, it usually goes through some steps on it’s way to becoming a cancer so, like any cancer, the key is catching it early and removing it. If you are a sun worshipper or tanning bed user, have more than 50 moles, have had a skin cancer in the past or a family member with a skin cancer, have skin that burns easily or have a skin lesion that’s “on the way to becoming cancer” you are at increased risk for a skin cancer so watch out for suspicious, changing “moles” and see the doctor at QuikSurg for an appointment.