Skin Cancer, Melanoma Awareness

Can non-malignant moles become cancerous?

Most moles are harmless but could they be hiding melanoma or skin cancer?

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Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 24/07/19

Moles are fairly common. Adults typically have anywhere around 10 to 40 common, or non-malignant, moles on their body. Some would prefer to call them beauty marks. Although moles are often harmless, some kinds of moles have a higher risk of developing into melanoma.

To protect yourself and your family, it’s important to be aware of how to spot abnormal moles in the body and be cautious of changes in an old mole or any new moles when you’re older as they can be an early sign of skin cancer or melanoma.

What Are Non-Malignant Moles?

A common mole, also known as a nevus, is a non-malignant growth on the skin that appears during childhood or adolescence. They are usually pink, brown, or tan in colour. They can take many different forms, including freckles, moles, skin tags, and seborrheic keratoses.

Moles run in families. People with lighter skin are also prone to having more moles than darker-skinned individuals. Some moles will also lighten or darken with time as we age.

Most moles are non-malignant, or benign, and we may have them throughout our lifetime. But it is a fact that people with more than 50 moles have a higher risk of developing melanoma. But when spotted early, can be effectively treated.

Knowing how to spot the difference between malignant and non-malignant moles is crucial so you can detect the suspicious ones early and take the necessary measures to prevent them from becoming a risk to your health.

Can a Non-Malignant Mole Become Cancerous?

The short answer is yes. For adults, new moles and sudden changes to existing moles can be a sign of melanoma. Yale School of Medicine points out, “Approximately 70 percent of melanomas appear on normal skin, while 30 percent originate in a preexisting mole in which changes in color, size, and/or shape have occurred.”

When doing a skin check, take note of any growth changes to your moles such as the following:

  •  Any size changes to an existing mole (getting noticeably smaller or bigger)
  • Any shape, texture, or height changes (moles that suddenly get hard or lumpy)
  • Any colour changes to an old mole
  • Moles that start to itch, bleed, or ooze
  • The sudden appearance of new moles when you’re older
  • Having more than 50 moles in the body

For your peace of mind, if you notice these tell-tale signs, it is important to immediately see your GP for a dermatologist referral or book an appointment to your local Molemap by Dermatologists.

Other Types of Non-Malignant Moles

Atypical Moles (Dysplastic Nevi)

Atypical moles look like common moles, but they can be larger in size and may also have a different shape or colour. They appear after sun exposure on covered areas of the body such as the scalp or buttocks. Although they may have some features of melanoma, most atypical moles don’t become cancerous.

Congenital Melanocytic Nevi

These kinds of moles are present at birth. The risk of congenital melanocytic nevi becoming melanoma is between 0 to 10%. However, it is important to note that those with larger congenital nevi are at a higher risk of developing melanoma, especially those found at the back.

They can be removed by surgery to avoid the risk of developing into cancer. People with congenital nevi who choose not to remove them should learn how to do monthly self-examinations or have themselves regularly checked by a dermatologist.

Need a Mole Checked?

Doing regular skin self-checks are a must, especially for people who are at high risk for skin cancer. If you notice any abnormal growths or changes to your moles, you need to get it checked right away.

The only way to diagnose melanoma with absolute certainty is to see a doctor or visit a melanoma detection and surveillance clinic like MoleMap so you can have your skin checked by skin cancer detection specialists.

Don’t second-guess yourself. If you’re unsure about a mole in your body or if you notice a mole that may not have been there before, book an online MoleMap appointment in your nearest MoleMap clinic and get peace of mind.

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