8 things you may not have known about your moles

Men and women of all ages, colours and creeds have moles. These little skin growths made up of natural skin

Men and women of all ages, colours and creeds have moles. These little skin growths made up of natural skin pigment can be randomly scattered all over our body – some people have a lot, and some have none. Sometimes they’re dark brown, red or even light. But there’s something mysterious about moles despite what we know: they can change and they can become cancerous.

For the most part, moles never cause a problem and are just a part of our skin, however living in Australia, where the incidences of skin cancer are so high, we need to be careful even if we think the mole is normal.

But how can we truly know? We’ve done the hard work and found all you need to know about moles and whether to be worried.

1. Follow the ABCDE rule

Use this simple tool to decide if a doctor should inspect your mole:

Asymmetry – It isn’t a perfect circle/one side is not the same as the other
Border that is irregular – The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
Colour that is uneven – Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
Diameter – There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than 6 millimeters wide (about .25 inch wide).
Evolving –  The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.

2. The different types of melanomas

According to the Cancer Council, there are three main types of skin cancer- melanoma (including nodular melanoma), basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.



  • Most deadly form of skin cancer.
  • If left untreated can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Appears as a new spot or an existing spot that changes in colour, size or shape.
  • Can appear on skin not normally exposed to the sun.

Nodular melanoma

Nodular melanoma

  • Grows quickly.
  • Looks different from common melanomas. Raised and even in colour.
  • Many are red or pink and some are brown or black.
  • They are firm to touch and dome-shaped.
  • After a while they begin to bleed and crust.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Most common, least dangerous form of skin cancer.
  • Red, pale or pearly in colour, appears as a lump or dry, scaly area.
  • May ulcerate or fail to completely heal.
  • Grows slowly, usually on areas that are often exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • A thickened, red scaly spot that may bleed easily, crust or ulcerate.
  • Grows over some months, usually on areas often exposed to the sun.
  • More likely to occur in people over 50 years of age.

3. What is the difference between a freckle and a mole?

Freckles are small usually pale brown areas of skin whereas moles are areas of darker pigmented (brown or brown/black) on the skin.

4. How common are worrying moles?

Moles that are considered unusual or ‘atypical’ occur in around 10 per cent of the population. Only one in ten thousand of these people will have a malignant (cancerous) mole.

6. If my moles change appearance does it mean I have cancer?

Don’t worry: moles can change appearance and most of these changes will not be cancers. With that said, you should see a doctor if you notice any change to a mole.

7. How are moles removed?

If you need a mole removed, your doctor will remove the mole and a bit of tissue around the mole to ensure that no cancer cells remain. There are different techniques used for different areas that will lead to minimal scarring.

8. I just noticed a new mole. What should I do?

If you get a new mole see your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to determine if it is cancerous and what needs to be done to remove it.

Tell us, do you have moles? Have you ever had one removed?

  1. Kerry Richardson  

    I have many moles all over, top to toe. I have regular checks and had lots removed. Only 2 of those removed were not benign. And neither of those were unusual in colour – they had changed in size and were sensitive to the touch. That is another warning sign!! I experienced a sensation a bit like an electric shock or a stinging tingle.

  2. Sue barber  

    Just had melonoma removed from foot 2 weeks ago plus 3 BBC’s removed still recovering 2 skin grafts and being dressed every second day. Loved the sun when l was young could’nt get enough of it. Am paying for it now. It’s. Just not worth it l tell every body. Good result from melonoma though. I have had so many BCC’sremoved over the years. I am 67.

  3. Hans  

    Cancerous cells are always being created in the body. It’s an ongoing process that has gone on for eons. So parts of your immune system are designed to seek out and destroy cancer cells. If it is not capable of destroying the cancer cells it is probably caused by the excessive amounts of toxins and pollutants we are exposed to, high stress lifestyles that zap the immune system, poor quality junk food that’s full of pesticides, irradiated and now genetically modified, pathogens, electromagnetic stress, lights, and just about everything that wasn’t here 200 years ago. All these weaken the immune system, and alter the internal environment in the body to an environment that promotes the growth of cancer. we need to boost the immune system.
    Zinc in cancer prevention.
    Prasad AS, Beck FW, Snell DC, Kucuk O.
    Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA. [email protected]
    Essentiality of zinc for humans was discovered 45 yr ago. Deficiency of zinc is prevalent world wide in developing countries and may affect nearly 2 billion subjects.
    The major manifestations of zinc deficiency include growth retardation, hypogonadism in males, cell-mediated immune dysfunctions, and cognitive impairment.
    Zinc not only improves cell mediated immune functions but also functions as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation have been implicated in development of many cancers. In patients with head and neck cancer, we have shown that nearly 65% of these patients were zinc deficient based on their cellular zinc concentrations.
    Natural killer (NK) cell activity and IL-2 generation were also affected adversely. Th2 cytokines were not affected. In our patients, zinc status was a better indicator of tumour burden and stage of disease in comparison to the overall nutritional status. Zinc status also correlated with number of hospital admissions and incidences of infections. NF-kappa B is constitutively activated in many cancer cells, and this results in activation of antiapoptotic genes, VEGF, cyclin DI, EGFR, MMP-9 and inflammatory cytokines.
    Zinc inhibits NF-kappa B via induction of A-20. Thus, zinc supplementation should have beneficial effects on cancer by decreasing angiogenesis and induction of inflammatory cytokines while increasing apoptosis in cancer cells. Based on the above, we recommend further studies and propose that zinc should be utilized in the management and chemoprevention of cancer.
    PMID: 20155630 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

  4. Flanjam  

    SCC living in our house at present. After several years of Dermological visits and Biopsies in August 2015 it decided it was time to show itself. Urgent operation and skin graft on the face then radiation took us to Christmas. Suddenly it appeared on the jawline and was found to already in the neck area after a 2nd operation in January. Life is now Chemo in the morning and Radiation in the afternoon, numerous other tests and almost daily appointments with Cancer Specialists. Get your skin checked, and keep on checking. Wish us well.

  5. Edith M.  

    I have fair skin and freckles. Had a feeling about just one freckle on my forearm, even though it looked the same as all the others, not darker, not raised, not uneven, not itchy or sensitive. It was just a feeling I had about it. My GP said it was just a lentigo (freckle), but I insisted I see a Dermatologist, and he said the same thing. I told him I wanted it removed anyway, so he reluctantly sent me to a surgeon who also said it was just a freckle, but removed it at my insistence. 48 hours later he phoned me and said “You were right, it’s a melanoma I’m afraid. Come straight back in”. 30 stitches later it was excised with clear margins. All 3 Doctors were shocked, as it truly looked like just a freckle – very atypical. Fortunately it was an early Level 1 and 20 years later I’m still all clear. Trust your instinct my friends, and insist on treatment – it’s your right and your body.

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