Most people do not get skin cancer from moles. It is, however, possible for some moles to become malignant. In addition to the potential to develop skin cancer from moles, it is also possible to have cancer develop in close proximity to an existing mole. For these reasons, doctors usually recommend that individuals closely monitor moles and other changes in pigmentation on their skin. This is due to the fact that early treatment of skin cancer often improves a person’s prognosis.
It is possible to develop skin cancer from moles, but fortunately, the presence of moles does not translate into the definite presence of skin cancer; most people who have moles do not have cancer, as the vast majority of moles do not cause the affected person any physical harm. Since the potential for developing skin cancer from moles does exist, however, doctors usually recommend monitoring and noting changes in moles in order to identify skin cancer early. When skin cancer is diagnosed and treated in an early stage, the patient’s chances for recovery are typically improved.
Moles are simply deposits of pigmented cells that appear as flat or raised spots on the skin; some are small and difficult to see while others are large and take up significantly more space. Moles can develop on just about any part of the body, and an individual may develop skin cancer even if he does not have any moles on his skin. The presence of more than 20 moles or moles that are irregular in terms of shape or color may, however, mean a person is more likely to develop skin cancer. Likewise, a person may be at an increased risk for developing skin cancer if moles run in his family or he was born with large moles.
Doctors often provide a checklist of criteria a person can use to determine whether he should visit a medical professional to have a mole evaluated. For example, many doctors recommend that a patient see a doctor for moles that develop after he is 20 years of age. An individual may also do well to seek evaluation if a mole becomes painful, bleeds, or oozes fluid. Likewise, an individual may need a doctor’s evaluation if his mole becomes scaly, develops a crust, itches, or burns. If a mole changes shape, grows larger, or changes color, this may indicate a need for a doctor’s examination as well.