The ABCDEs of moles

Melanoma develops in cells called melanocytes that produce melanin — the pigment that gives your skin its color. The exact cause of all melanomas isn’t clear, but exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, radiation from sunlight or tanning beds increases your risk of developing the disease.

Moles can develop anywhere on your body, including your scalp, armpits, under your nails, and between your fingers and toes. Most people have 10 to 40 moles. Many of these develop by age 50. Moles may change in appearance or fade away over time. Hormonal changes of adolescence and pregnancy may cause moles to become darker and larger.

Finally, remember that prevention is key. Whenever possible, stay out of the sun during the middle of the day when UV light is the strongest. When you are outdoors, use sun-protective clothing and a broad-spectrum UV A/UV B sunblock with a with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of at least 50. Dr. Jason Sluzevich, Dermatology, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida

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If you notice any of these changes, schedule an appointment with your health care team.

Moles are a common type of skin growth. They often appear as small, dark brown spots and are caused by clusters of pigmented cells. Moles generally appear during childhood and adolescence. Most people have 10 to 40 moles, some of which may change in appearance or fade away over time.

It’s important to watch for moles that stick out or appear different than other moles. They are sometimes referred to as “ugly ducklings” and should raise your suspicion of melanoma.

The ABCDEs of moles

Cancerous, or malignant, moles vary greatly in appearance. Some may show all the features listed above. Others may have only one or two.

Learn about moles (nevi), what causes them, whether they put you at increased risk of skin cancer and how to check a mole for signs of skin cancer.

This ABCDE guide can help you determine if a mole or spot may indicate melanoma or other skin cancers:

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Symptoms

When checking your moles, follow the ABCDE guide from the American Academy of Dermatology. Look for:

Moles often appear as small, dark brown spots, and they are caused by clusters of pigmented cells. Moles generally appear during childhood and adolescence. Most people have 10 to 40 moles.

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It is important to talk to your health care provider if you notice any changes in your moles, and being evaluated by a dermatologist annually and checking your skin regularly are two excellent steps you should take to catch melanoma and other types of skin cancer early. The sooner skin cancer is found, the better the chances are of curing it.

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This ABCDE guide can help you determine if a mole or spot may indicate melanoma or other skin cancers:

Cancerous (malignant) moles vary greatly in appearance. Some may show all of the features listed above. Others may have only one or two.

Make an appointment with your health care provider if a mole looks unusual, grows or changes.

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