Most people think that an irritated mole automatically means cancer. In some cases, this might be true. But there are also other potential causes.
It’s normal to feel worried about a mole that’s painful, itchy, and bloody. After all, most moles don’t have these qualities.
For example, a mole that’s bleeding might be doing so because the blood vessels within it are abnormal in some way.
On the flip side, an itchy or painful mole might be the result of common skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema.
Similarly, a mole that’s painful can be due to trauma or cancerous cells. There’s really no way to know for sure until you speak with a doctor.
When Should You See a Doctor About an Irritated Mole?
As a general rule of thumb, if you have an irritated mole that appears to be getting worse, or if your symptoms haven’t cleared after two weeks, then see a doctor.
Any painful mole that hasn’t undergone trauma might contain cancerous cells.
What Are Moles?
A mole is nothing more than a collection of specialized cells called “Melanocytes”. These cells typically collect near the top of the skin, which is known as the “Epidermis”.
Melanocytes produce melanin, which control the color your skin based on how much is produced (darker people have more melanin in their skin).
Also, sunlight exposure can cause moles to become darker. Why? Because melanocytes respond to UV radiation.
This is why people who spend a lot of time in the sun tend to get darker. The extra melanin produced by melanocytes is designed to protect your body against the potentially harmful UV radiation.
What’s Inside a Mole?
A mole may contain one or more of the following:
- Blood Vessels: Provide the mole with nutrients as well as help remove waste.
- Nerve Fibers: This allows the mole to experience normal sensations (hot, cold, etc.).
- Immune Cells: Designed to help fight bacteria and other foreign invaders.
A mole might also have hair follicles, sweat glands, and oil glands.
What Causes Moles to Bleed?
An irritated mole that bleeds can be caused by a number of things. A common cause is trauma.
It’s possible that you accidentally cut it while shaving. You may have even scraped it against a rough object, causing it to bleed.
Unfortunately, a mole that bleeds might also be cancer. However, you shouldn’t be alarmed since only a small percentage of bleeding moles end up being malignant.
What Causes Moles to Become Itchy?
The sensation of itch is simply the result of your body’s nerve endings responding to a sensation.
Allergic reactions and skin conditions like dermatitis can cause your mole to feel itchy. An abnormal growth within a mole might also cause it to feel itchy.
This is why it’s important to stay vigilant and track the status of your mole on a daily basis.
If the itch persists or gets to the point where it begins to bleed, you should consult your doctor.
What Causes Moles to Become Red?
Don’t panic if you notice that your mole is becoming redder- it’s possible that you bumped or scraped it and increased blood supply to the area. Can red moles mean melanoma? Unfortunately, yes.
Sometimes cancer will trigger an abnormal growth of blood vessels to the mole in order to ensure its own survival. Again, this is something you’ll need to confirm with a dermatologist.
What Causes Painful Moles?
Just like an itchy, pain is the result of your nerves responding to a sensation. Pain that originates from an irritated mole might be a result of trauma.
However, it shouldn’t last for more than a few days. If the pain persists for longer than that, see a doctor.
The ABCDs of Melanoma
The ABCDE signs of melanoma can be a great guideline for helping you distinguish between a normal mole and a cancerous one.
Each letter stands for a visual cue: A stands for asymmetry, B stands for border, C stands for color, D stands for diameter, and E stands for evolving.
Let’s start with asymmetry. If you notice that a mole isn’t symmetrical, then this could be a sign of melanoma.
Normal moles have symmetry while cancerous moles do not. Next, look at the borders of your mole. Do they look uneven? If so, this is a bad sign.
It means that the melanocytes aren’t remaining confined to their original borders.
Now look at the color. Is it uniform throughout the entire mole? A normal mole will have a uniform color while a cancerous mole will have “blends” of different colors.
Then look at the diameter: is it larger than the eraser tip of a pencil? Moles this size or larger have a higher likelihood of being melanoma than smaller moles.
Finally, if the mole is evolving, go see a doctor.
How Common is Melanoma?
In the United States, about 75,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year. Even though this number sounds scary, realize that survival rates are extremely high when melanoma is caught early.
The reason melanoma is so deadly is because doctors don’t catch it until it’s too late.
If you learn how to recognize the signs of melanoma at home, it can quite literally save your life.
It’s recommended that you do a whole-body checkup for signs of melanoma (the frequency is up to you). Try not to go more than a few months without checking.
Check your face, scalp, under your armpits, between your legs, your back, under your fingernails (yes, melanoma can occur here), on your hands, on your feet, and on your buttocks.
If you notice something that’s questionable, take note of it. If you notice a mole becoming larger, changing color, or developing an uneven border, schedule a visit with your dermatologist as soon as possible.
The quicker you take action, the more likely you are to survive if it does turn out to be melanoma.
Seeing irritated mole doesn’t automatically mean you have melanoma. As we explained, it’s possible that the mole underwent some kind of physical trauma.
In many cases, people don’t even remember bumping or scraping their mole, and then they panic when they see it bleeding.
With that said, always be on the lookout for the ABCD signs of melanoma as described above. Even though an irritated mole could be nothing, there’s always a possibility of it being cancerous.
By doing whole-body checkups on a regular basis, you can catch melanoma early (if you have it) thus, radically increasing your chance of survival.