Learning to identify the different types of moles will help you understand if they can be removed, what type of procedure may be necessary for removal, or if you need to have them removed at all. Most skin blemishes are benign, but you should be aware of what types of blemishes may be indicative of skin cancer.
Signs of Potentially Cancerous Blemishes
Identifying potentially cancerous moles is essential for catching skin cancer early on. Not all blemishes are cancerous, but they may become cancerous over time, especially after regular prolonged exposure to sun without sunscreen. Any blemishes that suddenly appear are worth keeping on eye on, as are any blemishes that exhibit these signs:
- Irregularly shaped (most blemishes are round or oval-shaped)
- Jagged, rugged borders
- Irregularly colored
- Greatly protruding from the skin
- Larger than an eraser on a pencil
Some medical professionals advise examining the irregularity of blemishes through the "ABCDE" method of skin cancer detection when you're worried about a mole: asymmetry, border, color and diameter.
Dysplestic nevi are often confused for cancerous moles because they share some signs of cancerous blemishes, such as irregular shapes, non-uniform color, jagged edges and large size. However, some people are prone to these blemishes genetically and may have 100 or more on their bodies. However, even if they prove to benign, it's better to have them checked than not, as dysplestic nevi can indeed become cancerous, particularly if you get them after age twenty.
Congenital nevi are blemishes that have been present since birth. Although they may be more regular in appearance than dysplestic nevi, it's important to monitor them because blemishes that are present since birth are among the most likely types of moles to become cancerous later in life. Congenital nevi are typically black or dark brown in color.
These types of moles may be surrounded by a circular white patch of light that appears in the shape of a halo. They tend to appear during adolescence and teenage years, and the "halo" typically becomes less noticeable over time. They're typically not cancerous.
Skin tags protrude much further from the skin than regular moles. Instead of simply raising off of the skin, skin tags consist of light- or dark-colored tissue that hangs off like a flap from the skin. At the base of the skin tag may be a small or larger patch of darker skin. Skin tags are typically benign, but may cause more discomfort than other blemishes if in an area where you wear clothes or jewelry.
Moles that may indicate skin cancer should be removed as soon as possible for testing in order to potentially catch skin cancer in its early stages, but you can decide to have most blemishes removed purely for cosmetic or comfort reasons as well by your regular physician, a dermatologist or a cosmetic specialist. Remember, though, that these types of blemishes on the face may be more difficult to remove and should only be attempted by a dermatologist or cosmetic specialist.