Moles and birthmarks are benign pigmented spots or patches of skin that range in color from tan, brown, and black (moles) to pink, red, or purple (lesions consisting of blood vessels). Though most birthmarks are harmless, some may develop into skin cancer. Moles exhibiting any of the following warning signs should be examined by a Board-certified dermatologist:
- Asymmetry (one half looks different from the other half)
- Border irregularities
- Color variations
- Diameter greater than a pencil eraser
- Evolution or change
An easy way to remember these characteristics is ABCDE.
Other moles that should be evaluated include ones that itch or bleed, rapidly change, look different from other moles on the body, or are located in places where they cannot be monitored (eg. scalp).
There are numerous other growths that may appear on the skin and cause concern to the patient. Many of these are benign but still need to be evaluated.
Suspicious moles, birthmarks and other growths may need to be biopsied and sent for microscopic examination and diagnosis.