Has a doctor told you that you have a precancerous mole but you don’t know what it means?
If so, this article is for you. These types of moles are more commonly called atypical moles.
They are benign moles that look like melanoma. If you have them, you’re at an increased risk of developing melanoma in your lifetime.
In fact, people who have atypical moles are 10-12 times more likely to get this type of cancer.
Doctors and scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes them. One guess is that it’s a genetic condition. Typically, people who have this symptom also have a family history of it.
So if you have a precancerous mole, or a few of them, you should definitely get regular professional skin exams, perform in-home checkups, and use sun protection.
What Does a Normal Mole Look Like?
A normal mole is simply a small brown growth or spot on the skin. Some moles are elevated while others are not. Many of them are a direct result of sun exposure.
Take a look at the picture on the right- that’s an example of a normal mole. In the sections that follow, we’ll show you the difference between a normal mole, a precancerous mole, and melanoma.
What Does a Precancerous Mole Look Like?
An atypical mole is any mole that has the potential to become melanoma. These moles look like melanoma, but are actually benign.
However, there is a possibility that they can turn into cancer later on in life. If you have these types of moles on your body, you’ll want to get them looked at by a dermatologist on a regular basis.
The great thing about melanoma is that if you catch it early, there’s a very good chance you’ll be okay.
What Does Melanoma Look Like?
Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The reason why it’s so deadly is because doctors don’t catch it until it’s too late.
If you catch melanoma early, you’ll most likely survive (even if you’re a bit older). But if it manages to spread, it becomes complicated.
As you can see from the picture above, melanoma is like a regular mole, expect it has irregular edges, it’s bigger than normal, and it’s discolored.
If you see this anywhere on your body, schedule a visit with your dermatologist as soon as possible to get a biopsy and rule out melanoma.
The ABCD Signs of Melanoma
Doctors use the ABCD signs of melanoma to determine if a precancerous mole has become cancerous. Each letter stands for a specific sign to look for.
A stands for asymmetrical, B stands for border, C stands for color, and D stands for diameter. In the following few sections, we’ll talk about each of these individually.
The first thing to look out for is asymmetry. If a mole is unsymmetrical, then there’s a higher chance that it’s cancerous.
If one side of the mole is larger/smaller than the other, then you should tell your dermatologist about it.
Next, look at the borders. Are they even? Or are they jagged? If it’s the latter, this is another potential risk factor for melanoma.
An atypical mole will usually have edges that are undefined. A normal mole will have boarders with clearly defined boarders.
The next thing to pay attention to is color. The common characteristic of cancerous moles is that they aren’t the same shade of color all around.
They might be one tint of black at one end, and a different tint at the other. This is a potential sign of melanoma.
The final thing to look at is diameter. Has the mole been growing? Is it larger than the head of an eraser? Is it becoming larger in volume?
If so, these are all signs that you need to see your dermatologist and tell them about it as it could be cancerous.
A Precancerous Mole Should Be Checked Regularly
If you have a precancerous mole, you don’t need to visit the doctor every week. If you have a family history of melanoma, try to visit at least once every two months.
You can also perform self-checks at home using the ABCD method that we talked about above.
If a mole has changed color, grown in size, developed uneven boarders, or become asymmetrical, get it checked by a professional. They might do a biopsy to rule out melanoma.