Moles and Birthmarks Screening
Moles and other birthmarks are benign pigmented spots or patches of skin that range in color from tan, brown and black (moles) to red, pink or purple (vascular lesions, such as strawberry hemangiomas or port wine stains). Though most birthmarks are harmless, they may develop into cancer. Moles exhibiting any of the following warning signs should be examined by a professional immediately:
- Larger than six millimeters.
- Itches or bleeds.
- Rapidly changes in color, size or shape.
- Has multiple colors.
- Is located where it can't be easily monitored, such as on the scalp.
While most moles and other skin growths are not of medical concern, it is important to screen for cancer and other skin conditions that can develop in some cases. Full-body skin exams to detect any new moles and growths, as well as to monitor existing growths, are recommended on a yearly basis in order to screen for skin cancer and detect any abnormalities in their earliest stages. To classify a mole or nevus, your doctor will evaluate its color, size, border and any asymmetries that may indicate a potential for cancer. If any suspicious lesions are found during this exam, additional testing will likely be performed, including a biopsy for pathology evaluation. Part of this evaluation by pathology may be an assessment of the degree of atypia present.