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In addition to limiting your exposure to sunlight and using sunscreens, examining yourself for moles can reduce the chances of developing melanoma (cancer), or allow early detection and treatment.
The skin is the largest organ in the human body and one of the few organs you can see. Being proactive about preventing skin cancer is important for your health. This is especially true if:
Dermatologists (physicians who are skin experts) recommend that you examine your skin every month. Most moles are benign (non-cancerous). If you notice changes in a mole's color or appearance, have your mole evaluated by a dermatologist. You also should have moles checked if they bleed, ooze, itch, appear scaly, or become tender or painful.
Dermatologist will examine the growth and perform a skin biopsy, if indicated. The dermatologist uses this information to decide how to treat the mole.
Moles can develop in any cutaneous (skin) or mucosal (mouth, eyes, genitals) surfaces. If you have had melanoma (or have a strong family history of melanoma), in addition to routine exams by a dermatologist, you should have annual check-ups with a dentist, ophthalmologist (eye doctor), and a gynecologist to look for moles in these special locations.
Dermoscopy or Dermatoscopy is a noninvasive method that allows the in vivo evaluation of colors and microstructures of the epidermis, the dermoepidermal junction, and the papillary dermis not visible to the naked eye. These structures are specifically correlated to histologic features.
A handheld instrument called a dermatoscope or dermoscope, which has a transilluminating light source and standard magnifying optics, is used to perform dermoscopy.
A dermatoscope allows dermatologists to distinguish benign from malignant tumors, particularly in the diagnosis of melanomawithout the obstruction of skin surface reflections. Other cancerous lesions that can be diagnosed by dermatoscopy include angiomas, basal cell carcinomas, cylindromas, dermatofibromas, seborrheic keratosis and squamous cell carcinomas. Also it can determine the surgical margin for skin cancers that are difficult to define. Bowen’s disease, lentigo malignas and superficial basal cell carcinomas fall under this category because they are known to have indistinct margins.
Dermatoscopy is also used in the diagnosis of fungal infections, hair and scalp diseases (including alopecia areata,female androgenic alopecia, monilethrix, Netherton’s syndrome and woolly hair syndrome), pubic lice, scabies and warts.
The following ABCDEs are important signs of moles that could be cancerous. If a mole displays any of the signs listed below, have it checked immediately by a dermatologist:
You should always be suspicious of a new mole that develops after the age of 30. Many of the growths that appear after the age of 30 are harmless age-associated growths rather than moles; however, if you do notice a new growth, you should see your dermatologist. The most common location for melanoma in men is the back; in women, it is the lower leg. Melanoma is the most common cancer in women ages 25 to 29.