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Everyone has moles, sometimes 40 or more. Most people think of a mole as a dark brown spot, but moles have a wide range of appearance. Normal Mole Moles can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups. They are usually brown in color and can be various sizes and shapes. The brown color is caused by melanocytes, special cells that produce the pigment melanin.

Different Types of Moles

Recent studies have shown that certain types of moles have a higher-than-average risk of becoming cancerous. Some may develop into a form of skin cancer known as malignant melanoma. Sunburns may increase the risk of melanoma. People with many more moles than average (greater than 100) are also more at risk for melanoma.

Moles known as dysplastic nevi or atypical moles are larger than average (usually larger than a pencil eraser) and irregular in shape. They tend to have uneven color with dark brown centers and lighter, sometimes reddish, uneven borders or black dots at edge. These moles often run in families.

Persons with dysplastic nevi may have a greater-than-average chance of developing malignant melanoma. These people should be seen regularly by a dermatologist to check for any changes that might indicate skin cancer. They should also learn to do regular self-examinations, looking for changes in the color, size or shape of their moles or the appearance of new moles. They should also shield their moles from sun exposure using sunscreen and/or clothing.

Recognizing the early warning signs of malignant melanoma is important. Remember the ABCD's of melanoma when examining your moles.

mole test cancerA stands for ASYMMETRY, when one
half of the mole doesn't match the other half.

mole test for cancerB stands for BORDER, when the border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred or irregular.

mole test for cancerC stands for COLOR, when the color of the
mole is not the same throughout or if it has shades of tan, brown, black, red, white or blue

mole test for cancerD stands for DIAMETER, when the diameter of a mole is larger than 6mm, about the size
of a pencil eraser.

If a mole displays any of these signs, it should be checked promptly by a dermatologist; if the appearance of a mole worries you or if it changes suddenly in any way, you should consult a dermatologist. At Comprehensive Dermatology Center, Dr. Xue routinely perform full body skin exam to check suspicious moles especially in high-risk population (red hair and fair skin, history of sun burn and skin cancer and family history of skin cancer) and he has extensive experience in detecting and treating early suspicious moles.

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