Q: How do I know when I should see someone about a mole?

A: I typically see several people each month with concerns about moles…some present a long time, some recently developed, some moles changing. Usually older people, but occasionally a child or teenager. The most common mole I see in adults is the seborrheic keratosis, or “old age spot.” These are well-bordered, and cauliflower-like elevations. Usually round or oval shaped. Color is variable from tan to brown to quite dark. They generally look like they were simply “stuck on” the skin.

In contrast, with aging and chronic sun damage to the skin, people develop actinic keratoses- which are “sun-damaged spots.” These do not have a clear border, are more irregular, have a rough texture and usually are red, and can even hurt when exposed to sunlight.

Everyone worries about melanoma- the worst of the three skin cancer types. Applying the ABCD rule is helpful: “A” for asymmetry – if you visually draw a line down the middle of the lesion, one side does not look like the other. “B” is border irregularity- not smooth edges, but fingerlike projections. Think of how the Florida peninsula contours our country’s coastal border. “C” is for color variation- not one uniform color, but rather a mixture- with special concern for coal tar-black areas. “D” is for diameter, with those larger than six millimeters in diameter of importance. Most importantly, though, if you think your mole is changing, then it is worth a trip to your health care provider.

Sam Watts, MD

Questions can be submitted directly to the providers, called in to Mercy Clinic at 417/876-5851 or submitted through their new App

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