Moles can often be a topic of annoyance or insecurity – I know more than one person who has gotten one removed from their face. But the fact is, we all have moles. Scientifically, it’s true. Usually a person will have between 10 and 20 moles anywhere on their body, and most moles appear by your 20’s.

Genetics, sun exposure and hormones can cause moles to appear or cause existing moles to get larger or darker. That’s why most moles appear in childhood, during your teen years or during pregnancy.

But the real question is, should I be worried about this mole? Is it cancerous or could it become cancerous? The first step to answering this critical question is determining the types of moles you have.

Types of Moles

  • Congenital Moles – Congenital moles are moles that you have at birth. Only about 1% of people are born with congenital moles. These moles in particular have an increased rate of turning into skin cancer and should be examined by a dermatologist.
  • Acquired Moles – As their name would suggest, these are moles that you acquire through life through sun exposure, genetics or hormones, although sun exposure is the most common explanation. These moles are no more than an inch in diameter and are generally harmless, with little to no risk of developing into skin cancer.
  • Atypical Moles – Also known as dysplastic nevi, atypical moles are quite large, usually larger than a pencil eraser. They are generally uneven in color, with a dark brown center and are shaped irregularly. There may be a reddish or brownish color around the edges of these moles, or even black dots. Atypical moles are genetic in nature and do have an increased chance of developing into skin cancer. See a dermatologist about these moles

It’s important to examine your existing moles frequently. Check your skin regularly, make notes of any changes that occur with your moles, especially if they are congenital or atypical moles. If you have a family history of atypical moles, your doctor may even suggest you have annual skin inspections, which will help monitor any development of  malignant melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer.

Ask your doctor at your next checkup about any suspicious mole activity. To stunt mole growth even before the doctors office, make sure to always wear SPF sunscreen when going out and extra clothing coverage when you know you’ll be outside for long periods of time.