Skin moles are usually harmless, but they can turn cancerous over time. Medical professionals advise that you self-check your moles regularly, but unless you are medically trained, you may miss some important signs of melanoma.
But, like anything health-related, always consult your physician before performing any kind of medical self-examination.
What causes moles on the skin?
Skin moles (called Nevi in the medical world), are pigmented skin formations that can vary in color. They can appear brown, black, red, or even purple, but are rarely multi-colored.
They can be flat or raised, and may well feel smooth or rough to the touch. You may even have moles with hair growing out of them.
They are caused by clusters of pigmented cells (Melanocytes) and generally appear during childhood and adolescence. These cells normally are evenly scattered throughout your skin and produce melanin -- the natural pigment that gives your skin its color.
Most people have at least one of them, and they are usually nothing to worry about unless you notice a change in size, shape, or color. Most people have between 10 to 40 of them, some of which are likely to change in appearance or fade away over time.
Moles are usually harmless but can, on rare occasions, become cancerous. That is why you should monitor their appearance over time.
Moles are typically oval or round in form and tend to be smaller than 1/4 inch (6 mm) in diameter. They can develop anywhere on your body, including your scalp, armpits, under your nails, and between fingers and toes.
Most moles will have developed on your body by the time you reach the age of 50 years.
According to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, it is quite normal for:
- babies to be born with moles.
- new moles to appear – especially in children and teenagers.
- moles to fade or disappear as you get older.
- moles to get slightly darker during pregnancy.
When should you be concerned about a mole?
As we have previously mentioned, moles are usually nothing to worry about. However, on rare occasions, moles can develop into a serious form of cancer called melanoma.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 100,350 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States during 2020. Of those, 6,850 are expected to be fatal. The rates of melanoma have been rising rapidly over the past few decades.
Melanomas are potentially life-threatening because they can travel from the skin to other parts of the body. However, with early diagnosis, survival rates are encouraging.
Typical symptoms of moles potentially developing into melanomas can include:
- A mole changing color, or having more than one color
- They may also develop uneven borders -- which is not typical for benign moles
- Your moles may begin to itch, bleed, crust over, or become raised, too
- The mole becomes enlarged or appears more raised from the skin than before
Melanomas are the main complication associated with moles, and some people have a high risk of their moles becoming cancerous over time. Factors that increase your risk of developing melanoma include, but are not limited to:
- Being born with large moles. These types of moles are called congenital nevi. On an infant, such moles are classified as large if they're more than 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter. Even a large mole seldom becomes cancerous and almost never before the child reaches puberty.
- Having unusual moles. Moles that are bigger than a common mole and irregular in shape are known as atypical (dysplastic) nevi. They tend to be hereditary. And they often have dark brown centers and lighter, uneven borders.
- Having many moles. Having more than 50 ordinary moles indicates an increased risk of melanoma. Two studies add to the evidence that the number of your moles predict cancer risk. One showed that people under 50 years old, who have 20 or more moles on their arms, are at increased risk of melanoma. Another showed a relationship between the number of women's moles and breast cancer risk.
- Having a personal or family history of melanoma. If you've had melanoma before, you are at increased risk of a mole becoming cancerous. In addition, some types of atypical moles lead to a genetic form of melanoma.
The most common cause of melanomas is excessive exposure to UV light from the sun, during sunbathing, or using tanning salons. For this reason, it is advised that you always use sunscreen when going out and avoid peak sun times whenever possible.
You should also cover up whenever possible, use sunglasses, broad brim hats, and long sleeve clothing. If you are of a higher risk category, you should also avoid excessive use of tanning booths and sunbathing.
How can you monitor moles to check that they aren't cancerous?
It is advised that you become familiar with the location and pattern of moles on your body and regularly monitor them for any changes. You should perform self-examinations at least once a month, especially if you have a family history of melanoma.
You will likely need to use mirrors to perform a head-to-toe check (including scalp, palms, fingernails, armpits, chest, legs, and feet including your soles and spaces between your toes). It is also advisable to check your genital area and buttocks too.
However, it should be noted that a true melanoma can only really be diagnosed by a medical professional. Though, by spotting some of the warning signs yourself you may catch a problem early on.
But there are some tools that can help analyze the condition of moles a little more scientifically. One example is the Kickstarter project called NOTA.
According to the manufacturer, "NOTA was developed over a rigorous 2-year period, with several prototypes and scientific validity testing. We initially determined the types of sensitive electrodes we would need to measure impedance in the skin, then focused on simplifying them into a single device."
This app-powered mole tracking device works by analyzing the electrical impedance of moles on your skin. Moles and tumors (like melanomas) actually have noticeable and detectable differences in electrical impedance.
This is because normal tissue and cancerous masses have different amounts of water in them and by extension affect how they react to an electrical current. This phenomenon is exactly what NOTA takes advantage of to determine whether or not you should be concerned about a potential problem mole.
NOTA works by measuring the tiny differences in this bioimpedance to determine whether a mole has become a potential problem. If it suspects a mole could be cancerous, a light on the device will turn yellow or red.
NOTA also comes with an application for mole tracking too. This app allows you to track your moles and any changes over time. It also offers regularly updated health information on skin, moles, and how to properly care for them.
The simplicity of this device, and the convenience it offers, is a perfect solution for anyone concerned about their skin moles and detecting melanoma as early as possible. For this reason, you might want to check out NOTA for yourselves.
Any pledges come with a 30-day trial, guaranteed shipping, and a 1-year warranty as standard. The sooner you make a pledge, the bigger the savings you can potentially make for this revolutionary mole monitoring device.
Who knows, it might just save your life.