During your regular skin check (you do those, right?), have you noticed a new mole or two? You need to get that checked out. But before you become alarmed, let’s look at what the emergence of a new mole can mean.
Almost everyone has a mole or three. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the normal mole count for an adult is 10 to 40, with the bulk of these having emerged during childhood and adolescence. These moles can change in size (get larger) and color (either lighter or darker) during your developmental years — but such changes rarely signal serious skin cancer like melanoma.
However, if a new mole appears in adulthood (think: after age 20), you should have a doctor check it out right away, as it could be a sign of melanoma, which is treatable when caught early.
Moles come in different shapes and sizes (some, sadly, even sprout hair), but the most common and harmless mole is known simply as that: the common (or acquired) mole. Adults also have atypical moles (also known as dysplastic nevi), which are larger than a pencil’s eraser (6 mm), present in shapes other than round and have a mix of colors like tan, red, pink, and brown. According to the AAD, these moles can lead to melanoma, so it’s best to keep an eye on them. Other moles include congenital (you’re born with it) and Spitz nevus (pink and raised and develop in childhood but can occur in adulthood).
Any existing moles that change shape or color, bleed, itch, become scaly, or grow need to be examined promptly. The AAD recommends keeping an eye out for the ABCDEs of melanoma to help you spot potential problems when you do a self-check:
And if you discover a new mole as an adult, have it checked ASAP.