With the improved amount of education on the dangers of the sun and the rising rates of skin cancer, many people are interested in discovering the difference between a regular mole and one that is pre-cancerous or cancerous.
It cannot be stated too many times that although being in the sun is important to your health (this is how the body makes vitamin D), it is also important that for any exposure greater than 20 to 30 minutes a day individuals should wear sunscreen to protect their skin from damage.
What are moles?
Moles, or nevi as they are also called, are small areas of highly pigmented skin that can be either flat or raised. The average adult will have between 10 and 40 moles over their body.
The majority of these moles arise during childhood and the early 20s, but individuals can develop moles well after their 40th year.
The importance of a medical skin exam
It is extremely important for individuals who have had a large amount of sun exposure in their early years or at the present time to receive a semi annual skin exam by a health care practitioner.
This skin exam is designed to examine all areas of the body for abnormalities or skin moles which may have the criteria that identified them to a health care practitioner as requiring a biopsy.
Determining if a mole could be dangerous
There are a few things that can help the layperson decide if a mole is just a mole or if is turning into skin cancer. The first thing to look at is symmetry. Most moles are symmetrical and are either round or oval in shape with clean edges.
This means that you could essentially fold the mole in half and join the edges together without any overlap. Moles do not have blurred edges or are on symmetrical in form.
The next criteria that you might look for is color. Most moles are uniform and color and can range in color from blue, pink, gray or black. However, once found, these moles should not change in color and in most cases the mole has a uniform color across the entire mole.
Moles are usually small and not often larger than the end of an eraser which is approximately 5 mm or one quarter of an inch in diameter.
If a mole has been this size in the past but changes this can indicate the necessity of seeing op healthcare practitioner for further evaluation.
Elevation and/or enlargement
The last criteria that can be considered his elevation and enlargement over time. This does not mean that every mole that is higher than the level of the skin is skin cancer, but rather that if this mole continues to grow either higher or larger in diameter that it should be evaluated by a health care practitioner.
Moles do not change in appearance over time unless it is to gradually fade and disappear.
Other signs of a problem mole
Other worrisome signs include bleeding, redness, itching or pain.
If any of these criteria are met then you should seek the advice of your health care practitioner or dermatologist.
They will be able to advise you on the necessity of a possible skin biopsy or removal of the mole. Remember that finding skin melanoma early is an effective method for successful treatment.
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