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Moles and Cancer
in Scottsdale, AZ

Moles—those small and often inconspicuous spots that pepper our skin—hold more significance than meets the eye. A mole can indicate a potential health risk, particularly concerning cancer. While most moles are harmless, some may undergo transformations that signal malignancy, posing a threat of skin cancer. Understanding the relationship between moles and cancer is essential for proactive health management, emphasizing the importance of regular skin examinations and awareness of changes in mole characteristics to mitigate risks and facilitate early intervention.

What Are Moles?

A mole—or nevus—is a common skin growth that can vary in color, shape, and size.

There are three types of skin moles:

  • Congenital: Congenital moles are moles a person has when they are born.
  • Common or Acquired: Common or acquired moles are harmless moles that appear over time.
  • Atypical: Atypical moles—or dysplastic nevi—are unusual-looking moles that are often larger than common moles and have irregular features. Although atypical moles are not cancerous, having them places the person at risk for developing melanoma.

What Should I Know About Moles?

Most adults have moles on their skin. While usually harmless, moles can evolve over time, changing in size, shape, or color, which may indicate malignancy. Regular skin checks and monitoring changes in moles are crucial for early detection of skin cancer, particularly melanoma, for prompt medical intervention. Medically trained professionals in the area of dermatology look for the following indicators when checking a mole for abnormalities:

  • Color
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Any changes from its previous appearance

Schedule a consultation to learn more about checking moles for skin cancer.

What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer that begins in the melanocytes, which produce the skin pigment, also known as melanin. Factors such as excessive UV exposure, genetic predisposition, and a history of severe sunburns increase the risk of developing melanoma.

Melanoma typically manifests as an abnormal growth or mole, often presenting in various colors and shapes. While it can develop from existing moles, it can also appear as a new growth on the skin. Melanoma has the potential to metastasize rapidly, so early detection and treatment is critical.

Early signs of melanoma include changes in moles and the development of new pigments or growths on the skin. When diagnosed early, melanoma is often curable through surgical excision, but advanced cases necessitate more aggressive treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy.

Regular skin examinations and sun protection practices are pivotal in preventing and detecting melanoma, underscoring the importance of proactive skin health management. It is essential to understand what the moles on your body look like so you can immediately notice any changes in your skin and get a skin cancer screening.

What Should I Look for When Checking My Moles?

When checking your moles, it’s helpful to follow the ABCDE rule for melanoma:

  • A – Asymmetry: Regular moles are typically smooth and circular or ovular. Check to see if your moles are lopsided, irregular, or bigger than they used to be.
  • B – Border irregularity: Check the border of your moles. Normal moles have smooth and distinct borders. Take note of any ragged, notched, or blurred mole borders.
  • C – Color variation: Moles range in color from light brown to black or red; however, they are usually a single shade of that color. If your moles have multiple colors, this may be a warning sign. Additionally, take note of any moles that have changed color.
  • D – Diameter: Check to see if the diameter of any mole is larger than six millimeters wide—the size of a pencil eraser. Normal moles typically have a diameter of less than five millimeters.
  • E – Evolving: Moles should not change in size, shape, or color. It is important to report any changes in the appearance of your moles.

If you notice any abnormalities in your moles while you perform your checks, see a doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible.

Moles can grow anywhere on the body and can be difficult to find. Since moles do not always appear on areas of skin that are typically exposed to the sun, it is essential to know where to look for them:

  • Nails: Moles can grow under your nails. While this is not a typical area for moles to grow, they may appear as a dark line running through the nail. If you notice a mole under your nail, see a doctor, especially if it grows over time.
  • In between the fingers or toes: We often do not check for skin abnormalities between our body’s tiny crevices. To complete a thorough examination, looking for moles in hidden places is crucial.
  • Back: Your back is a difficult area to see. Be sure to check your back in a mirror for moles and note any findings.
  • Scalp: Your head is exposed to the sun every day, and inspecting your scalp for a mole can be extremely challenging. Like moles on other areas of your body, moles on your scalp should be monitored for any changes.
  • Genitalia: Moles can grow anywhere. Make sure to check your entire body. If you have noticed new, irregular, or changing moles, it is essential to have them examined.


How Should I Check for Changes in Moles?

The first step is to recognize that moles can be anywhere on your skin, even in places you can’t see or wouldn’t think to look, like the bottoms of your feet, in your hair, and behind your ears. The basic rule is to look for moles anywhere you have skin. Use a mirror when you conduct your mole check, and be ready to be thorough.

Conducting a mole check every three months is a good way to keep yourself honest about what you see and will help you determine if changes have occurred since the last time you looked.

If you see any unusual moles, schedule a consultation with a medically trained professional who specializes in skincare and dermatology. If you are over 20 and have never had a mole check, it’s a good idea to schedule a professional consultation.

How Are Mole Biopsies Performed in Scottsdale, AZ?

After a medical professional has examined your moles, a biopsy may be needed to test the mole for any abnormalities. A mole biopsy takes 10 to 15 minutes and is one of the best ways to test for skin cancer.

A shave biopsy or punch and excisional biopsy may be used, depending on the state of your mole. Shave biopsies are performed by creating an incision on the skin’s surface. Punch and excisional biopsies require a skin sample from a deeper layer and may need stitches after the sample is taken.

Are Warts Cancerous?

Warts are not cancerous. Warts are benign growths on the skin caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Diagnosing a wart is simple, as a dermatologist can tell if it is a wart just by looking at it. Typically, warts are harmless and sometimes go away on their own. Other times, they need treatment.

Treatments for removing warts include:

  • Cryosurgery: This is an easy and common treatment that freezes the wart by applying liquid nitrogen to the area. Freezing the wart allows a blister to form around it, and after a week, the dead skin can fall off, removing the wart with it.
  • Excision surgery: The affected area is numbed for the patient’s comfort, and the wart is cut out from the skin.
  • Electrosurgery and curettage: The wart is burned and scraped off the skin with a small surgical tool.

If you have a wart that isn’t going away, is reoccurring, or is in a bothersome area, see a medical professional for proper treatment.

Want to Learn More About Moles and Cancer in Scottsdale, AZ?

If you’d like to learn more about checking moles for skin cancer in the Scottsdale, AZ area, call the Skin & Cancer Center of Scottsdale at (480) 596-1110 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation.

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Scottsdale, AZ:
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Scottsdale, AZ 85254

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Carefree, AZ 85377

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19756 N. John Wayne Pkwy. Suite 101
Maricopa, AZ 85139

Skin & Cancer Center Scottsdale