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Identifying harmful moles

Chances are, you will have one or more moles somewhere on your body.

Chances are, you will have one or more moles somewhere on your body.

Moles are essentially small clusters of pigmented cells located in the skin. In most cases, moles are harmless, however it is important to monitor them for changes in appearance as they can become cancerous.

Moles develop when skin cells called melanocytes grow in clusters or clumps. These cells are responsible for giving the skin its colour. Normally, these cells are spread out evenly throughout the skin.

The typical appearance of a mole is a small, round, brown spot, however they can present in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Moles can be tan, red, bluish or pink. Their shape usually ranges from round to oval. Generally, moles are less than six millimeters in diameter.

The texture of moles varies widely as they may be smooth, flat or even raised. Over time the texture of a mole may change. Some moles start off flat but eventually become raised and others disappear.

Most moles will appear during childhood and adolescence but can continue to develop into midlife.

It is important to seek medical attention if a mole becomes painful or is bleeding. Similarly, if a mole suddenly changes in size, shape or colour it is prudent to see your doctor.

Your doctor will perform a detailed history and physical examination. If your doctor is concerned about a mole, he or she may perform a biopsy by removing a sample of tissue from the mole to microscopic examination.

In the event that a mole is determined to be cancerous, it must be removed surgically. There are several options for surgery and your doctor will discuss with you, which is best option for you.

Although it is impossible to prevent the formation of moles, it is still important to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun. There is a significant amount of research that shows the use of sunscreen is very important in the protection of skin from the sun. Also, try to avoid long exposures to the sun during the mid day when the ultraviolet rays are at their strongest.

In addition, check your skin regularly to look for changes. Most dermatologists suggest carefully inspecting your skin at least one per month. Remember to include locations such as your scalp, armpits and soles of the feet.

Until next month, drive safely.

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