Whether your skin needs medical, surgical or cosmetic treatment, trust the expert care of a board-certified dermatologist.

Moles are common. In fact, light-skinned adults typically have 10 to 45 “common” or “normal” moles on their skin.

When you talk to your dermatologist, he or she may use the word “nevus.” Nevus is the medical term for mole. When your dermatologist is talking about two or more moles, he or she may say “nevi,” as that is the plural term.

While most moles are harmless, skin cancer can sometimes develop in or near one. Knowing where and what they look like can help you spot skin cancer early, when it is highly treatable.

What Do Common Moles Look Like?

  • Small- less than 6 mm in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser).
  • Round to oval with a smooth edge or border
  • Flat or slightly raised on your skin
  • The same from month to month. (they do not change noticeably.)
  • One color, often brown. They also can be tan, black, pink, blue, skin-toned or colorless.
  • Can differ in size, shape, or color. They may also have hair.
  • Common moles can appear anywhere on the body, but most occur in areas of sun exposure, like the back, chest, and face. They appear in childhood and adolescence. New common spots usually do not appear in adults.

Why Should I Check My Moles?

In adults, a change in or the sudden appearance of a mole can be a sign of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Finding melanoma early is essential because the disease is highly treatable when detected early.

By getting into the habit of checking your skin, you can learn what your moles look like. Once you know what they look like, you’ll be able to spot changes.

How Should I Check Them?

The best way to check your skin is to perform regular skin self-exams. Visit the AAD’s SPOT Skin Cancer website, SpotSkinCancer.org, to get instructions on how to perform a skin self-exam and download a body mole map you can use to track changes on your skin. Your dermatologist also can show you how to examine your skin and provide you with tools that can help you keep track of your moles.

During your skin self-exam, you’ll need to check your entire body and make note of all the spots on your skin. Ask someone for help in checking hard-to-see places like your back and scalp.

As you check your skin, look for the ABCDEs of melanoma:

  • A - Is one half unlike the other half?
  • B - Does it have an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border?
  • C - Do you see more than one color, such as shades of tan and brown, black, white, red or blue?
  • D - Is it bigger than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser)? While melanomas are usually bigger than 6 mm when diagnosed, they can be smaller. 
  • E - Do you have a spot on your skin that looks different from the rest? Have you noticed the spot changing in size, shape, or color?

When should I see a dermatologist?

Make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible if you notice a mole on your skin that:

  • Fits any of the ABCDEs
  • Is a new spot
  • Differs from other moles on your skin
  • Changes, itches or bleeds.

*never try to remove a mole at home. You could get an infection or disfigure your skin.*

Do They Need To Be Removed?

Most moles do not require treatment. If your dermatologist is concerned that it may be skin cancer, he or she may recommend a biopsy. This is the best way to diagnose skin cancer. Your dermatologist can perform a biopsy during an office visit.

After the area has been numbed with local anesthesia, your dermatologist will remove all or part of the spot. The removed tissue will be examined under a microscope, either by your dermatologist or at a separate lab. The doctor who evaluates the tissue will write a biopsy report, which you should review with your dermatologist.

If the diagnosis is skin cancer, your dermatologist will consider the type of skin cancer, the size and location of the skin cancer, and your general health to recommend the best treatment for you.

If the biopsy report says it is an “atypical nevus,” you do not have skin cancer. An atypical nevus (sometimes referred to as a “dysplastic nevus”) is a mole that does not look like a common mole under the microscope. Although they may look like melanoma to the naked eye, most atypical nevus are benign and should not be a cause of concern. Because some atypical spots can turn into skin cancer, however, your dermatologist will tell you to watch it for changes that could be early signs of skin cancer. The dermatologist also will determine whether it requires further treatment; many do not.

If you see a mole or another spot reappear after a biopsy, contact your dermatologist.

Never try to remove a mole at home. You could get an infection or disfigure your skin.

How Can I Protect My Skin And Prevent Skin Cancer?

Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun and indoor tanning beds is the most preventable risk factor for all forms of skin cancer, including melanoma. The following can help you protect and prevent skin cancer.

Seek shade. Remember that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.

Wear protective clothing. This means wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.

Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

  • Use sunscreen whenever you are going to be outside, even on cloudy days.
  • Apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. For more adults. This is about one ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass.
  • Don’t forget to apply to tops of your feet, your neck, your ears and the top of your head.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
  • Take care around water, snow and sand. These reflect and intensify the suns damaging rays.
  • Avoid tanning beds. UV light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and early skin aging.
  • Consider using a self-tanning product if you want to look tan, but continue to use sunscreen with it. 

What Type Of Infections Can Cause Hives?

  • Upper—respiratory tract infections and colds can trigger an outbreak, especially in children.
  • Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections can also cause them.

How Does A Dermatologist Treat Hives?

This type of rash usually disappears in a few hours or a day. An over-the-counter antihistamine can provide relief and reduce itchiness.There are many antihistamines available. You may have to try several types until you find the one that is most effective for you.

If you have hives that do not resolve within a week or do not respond to over-the-counter antihistamines. see your dermatologist. Your dermatologist may prescribe stronger antihistamines or combine an antihistamine with other medicines to control it. These other medications can include:

  • corticosteroids. which can provide relief but should only be used short-term
  • The immunosuppressant, cyclosporine; the anti-inflammatory drug. dapsone; or a type of antibacterial oral medication

There is also a new US. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for chronic idiopathic urticaria, which is caused by an autoimmune reaction. Talk with your dermatologist about whether this medication is right for you.

In severe, acute cases, an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) may be necessary. Always seek immediate emergency medical treatment if you experience difficulty breathing.

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