Even the best medical books do not offer a clear definition of the pigmented mole of skin. It is therefore not surprising that people call these “ sometimes irritating, sometimes attractive “ skin formations by many names.
Nine out of ten people have skin moles “ if you are the one out of ten who does not have any moles, you do not need to read further.
What is a pigmented mole (naevus pigmentosus)? Whichever way we look at it, a mole is definitely a deviation from the normal state of the skin. But what is normal? While you were an embryo, right at the beginning of your embryonic state, cells pertaining to the nervous system started migrating and reached the skin where later they became guest workers “ cells that produce pigments. It is normal that these cells scatter around the upper layer of the skin “ the epidermis “ and this gives the skin its normal colour.
Skin moles can develop in two ways. One is when these migrating pigment cells gather into groups in certain areas creating brown skin formations. The other way that moles develop is due to UV damage, when the normal cells that produce pigments start to multiply resulting in the brown skin formation known as a mole.
The importance of moles is that they can be mistaken for early melanoma. Equally their number and level of irregularity is an indication of your probability of developing a malignant tumour i.e. the more moles a person has and the more of these moles that are irregular, the greater the chances of melanoma developing either on one of the moles or on the skin itself. The origin of the moles explains the unusually aggressive character of melanoma compared to skin cancer.
Pigmented moles have lots of categories. Here are the most frequent ones:
- atypical mole: irregular, larger than the normal, its colour shows different shades of brown (often has the shape of a fried egg). This kind of mole increases your probability of developing melanoma.
- Sutton mole (halo naevus): a mole which is surrounded by a white halo. This phenomenon probably occurs when the immune system attacks a damaged mole, starts destroying it and the pigment-producing cells around the mole are eliminated. This kind of mole can completely disappear (regression), but there is no risk of melanoma.
- blue mole: it is prominently blue and its colour is due to the pigment cells positioned in deeper layers of the skin.
There are many misconceptions surrounding skin moles but here are two major ones. The most dangerous false conception is that: “It is better to leave it alone and not to disturb it!!” This means that in case of any changes, including the possible development of melanoma, someone’s speed of reaction can be delayed. This is critical because in melanoma cases every single day counts.
A less dangerous misconception that still has undesirable consequences is” Let’s remove as many moles as we can to reduce the risk of melanoma“. Bearing in mind that melanoma can develop on intact skin as well as in moles, removing the moles does not offer a permanent solution.
Moles can appear in hidden locations, where it is harder to see them and more difficult to notice any changes. Such places can be the scalp, the perineum or the navel. For these moles it is worth considering preventive excision with even a smaller level of irregularity as it is more difficult to review future changes. You should always inform the examining nurse or doctor about these moles during your screening.
With skin moles “ wherever they are and however old they are “ the most important thing is to be alert to any changes. One method for this is self examination. The frequency with which you should check yourself depends on how many moles you have and how many of these are irregular. If you have a lot of irregular moles, a monthly inspection in front of the mirror might be sufficient. The disadvantage of self examination is that the examining person is not a professional and has no exact idea of what to look for. We have had a case when melanoma developed in a patient who did regularly examine himself.
The most professional method of monitoring changes “ and the technique which Melanomamobil uses “ is a total body, full comparative mole screening. At the time of your screening we cannot tell which mole might develop into melanoma, so in order to be sure we can spot any future changes, we record information about the entire body. Thanks to this precise and unique technology we noticed changes of only a few millimetres on Eva’s* and Lina’s* skin, which through the histological examination were confirmed as being melanoma.
During comparative examinations we often find that patients have not noticed any changes on their own skin. Equally when they do mention certain changes, we rarely find any essential differences between current and previous images. However we have detected “ among these are the two cases mentioned above “ changes in patients who stated that they have not noticed any changes in their moles.
The number of moles “ as well as the skin type “ also determines how seriously you should take sun protection. Someone with lots of moles should not use sun-beds and should protect his or her skin from the sun with clothes and sunscreens. Above all it is vital to avoid getting burned and to have regular professional screenings!
Anyone who has some moles “ nine out of ten people “ should come to a professional screening to have a clear understanding of the state of their skin, the lifestyle they should adopt and things they need to pay attention to.
* names have been changed to protect privacy. Patients have agreed to offer their pictures for information purposes.
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