An estimated one in every 10 adults in the United States has at least one atypical mole. And while some are completely harmless, others contain precancerous or cancerous cells. Rather than risk it, hoping you can ignore your usual mole without consequence, it’s important to seek professional care sooner than later.
Board-certified oculofacial plastic surgeon Robert M. Schwarcz, MD, and his team diagnose and treat various forms of skin cancer, as well as precancerous moles. Here, we explore the basics of unusual moles and explain why it’s smart to come into our office to have them checked out.
Signs that your mole is unusual
A mole can be considered atypical for a range of reasons. You may have one or multiple signs, all of which are important to note. A mole is considered unusual if it:
- Is asymmetrical
- Is darker than other moles you have
- Is larger than a pencil eraser
- Has an uneven or notched border
- Has multiple colors, such as different shades of brown
A mole is also considered unusual if it’s evolving, meaning you’ve noticed changes in its shape, elevation, color, or size. Rapid changes are especially important to notice.
Cancers linked with unusual moles
If you have atypical moles, even if they’re hereditary, you have a heightened risk for the most dangerous form of skin cancer, known as melanoma. And a new or suddenly changing mole anytime could be a sign of skin cancer.
Other types of skin cancer that can appear as an unusual mole include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Basal cell is the most common and least harmful type of skin cancer. Your mole could also contain precancerous cells that could become cancerous over time.
Treatment for an unusual mole
After an evaluation, Dr. Schwarcz will determine whether additional tests are needed. A team member may take a sample of your mole to send it to a lab for further testing. If it turns out that you have precancerous cells, you may need additional tissue removed and routine skin monitoring to watch for any recurrences.
If you’re diagnosed with a form of skin cancer, treatment typically involves removal. At our office, we are trained to perform the Mohs surgical technique, a specialized and precise means of removing cancerous tissue in thin layers in order to preserve the most healthy surrounding tissue. With a success rate of nearly 100%, it also helps prevent recurrence. For severe cancers, you may need additional treatments, such as radiation.
Early detection and treatment is best
Regardless, your treatment will be the most successful if you seek it early. This is especially the case with melanoma, which is very aggressive and, in later stages, often fatal. When melanoma is detected and treated in its early stages, your prognosis will likely be quite good.
To learn more about unusual moles or to have our team check your skin for trouble, call one of our offices — in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and in Scarsdale, New York — to book an appointment. You can also request an appointment using our online scheduling tool.