Moles are like little decorative spots that show the uniqueness in each person that has them. And while there has been folklore around what moles mean depending on where they’re located on the body, they’re just small bumps that change color on the skin. Some people are born with them and others grow over time. People with lighter skin tend to have more moles — approximately 10 to 40 moles on their bodies.
Most of the time, moles pose no threat to a person's health, but there are a few things that the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you should be aware of:
1. A type of skin cancer, melanoma, can grow in or near a mole.
2. Caught early and treated, melanoma can be cured.
3. The first sign of melanoma is often a change to a mole — or a new mole on your skin.
4. Checking your skin can help you find melanoma early. A dermatologist can show you how to examine your skin and tell you how often you should check your skin.
However, while it is rare — approximately one in a million — moles can become cancerous and become a malignant melanoma. According to Columbia University, there are few things that you should watch for when inspecting your body.
1. A change in the size of the mole. Look to see if it’s gotten bigger or wider.
2. If the outline of the mole becomes ragged, blurred, or irregular.
3. Both halves should match. It basically should be a mirror image of the other side.
4. If the color changes; sometimes when a mole comes in it gets darker. Look to see if the color changes again.
A recent study that came out shows that moles might pose a risk for women developing breast cancer. According to the National Institutes of Health, one study analyzed 24 years of mole reports collected from 74,500 women enrolled in the Nurse's Health Study. Women who had 15 or more moles had a 35 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer as opposed to women who had none. This is not to say that there is a correlation between moles and breast cancer, but rather moles show that there are higher hormone levels, which could elevate the risk of cancer.
Overall, most moles are harmless, but if you see any of the changes listed above happening to your body, speak with your health care provider or dermatologist. Many times the mole can be removed without further treatment if caught early.