Moles Vs. Freckles
Here's a fun fact about me that you may not know: I have 80 moles on just my left arm. I am a victim of a skin condition called moles and have been since I was born. The older I get, the more I get. The above photograph is a scanned image of my left arm demonstrating the number and appearance of my moles. I generally don't freckle - I mole. The more I think about this word and say it in my head, the more I think it sounds gross. But it's a topic I feel the need to bring up on my blog.
In the last few days, I have had at least three lengthy conversations with different people about the differences between moles and freckles. Most people have little to no knowledge of what moles are and are not. So, this is my attempt to clear up any misconceptions, stereotypes, or any other false notion that people might have about moles and freckles. It's important to note that the information provided was copied and pasted directly from webmd.com.
Freckles are small brown spots usually found on the face and arms. Freckles are extremely common and are not a health threat. They are more often seen in the summer, especially among lighter-skinned people and people with light or red hair.
What Causes Freckles?
Causes of freckles include genetics and exposure to the sun.
Do Freckles Need to Be Treated?
Since freckles are almost always harmless, there really is no need to treat them. As with many skin conditions, it's best to avoid the sun as much as possible, or use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. This is especially important because people who freckle easily (for example, lighter-skinned people) are more likely to develop skin cancer.
Moles are growths on the skin that are usually brown or black. Moles can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups.
Most moles appear in early childhood and during the first 20 years of a person's life. Some moles may not appear until later in life. It is normal to have between 10-40 moles by adulthood.
As the years pass, moles usually change slowly, becoming raised and/or changing color. Often, hairs develop on the mole. Some moles may not change at all, while others may slowly disappear over time.
What Causes a Mole?
Moles occur when cells in the skin grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin. These cells are called melanocytes, and they make the pigment that gives skin its natural color. Moles may darken after exposure to the sun, during the teen years, and during pregnancy.
Types of Moles
- Congenital nevi are moles that appear at birth. Congenital nevi occur in about one in 100 people. These moles may be more likely to develop into melanoma (cancer) than are moles that appear after birth. If the mole is more than eight inches in diameter, it poses a significant risk of becoming cancerous.
- Dysplastic nevi are moles that are larger than average (larger than a pencil eraser) and irregular in shape. They tend to have uneven color with dark brown centers and lighter, uneven edges. These moles tend to be hereditary (passed on from parent to child through genes). People with dysplastic nevi may have more than 100 moles and have a greater chance of developing melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. Any changes in a mole should be checked by a dermatologist to detect skin cancer.
How Do I Know if a Mole Is Cancer?
Most moles are not dangerous. The only moles that are of medical concern are those that look different than other existing moles or those that first appear after age 20. If you notice changes in a mole's color, height, size or shape, you should have a dermatologist (skin doctor) evaluate it. You also should have moles checked if they bleed, ooze, itch, appear scaly, or become tender or painful.
Examine your skin with a mirror or ask someone to help you. Pay special attention to areas of your skin that are often exposed to the sun, such as the hands, arms, chest, neck, face, and ears.
If your moles do not change over time, there is little reason for concern. If you see any signs of change in an existing mole, if you have a new mole, or if you want a mole to be removed for cosmetic reasons, talk to your dermatologist.
The following ABCDEs are important characteristics to consider when examining your moles. If a mole displays any of the signs listed below, have it checked immediately by a dermatologist. It could be cancerous.
- Asymmetry. One half of the mole does not match the other half.
- Border. The border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular.
- Color. The color of the mole is not the same throughout or has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red.
- Diameter. The diameter of a mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil.
- Elevation.A portion of the mole appears elevated, or raised from the skin.
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer. The most common location for melanoma in men is the back and in women, it is the lower leg. Melanoma is the most common cancer in women ages 25 to 29.
How Are Moles Treated?
If a dermatologist believes a mole needs to be evaluated further or removed entirely, he or she will either remove the entire mole, or first take just a small tissue sample of the mole to examine thin sections of the tissue under a microscope (a biopsy). This is a simple procedure. (If the dermatologist thinks the mole might be cancerous, cutting through the mole will not cause the cancer to spread.)
If the mole is found to be cancerous, and only a small section of tissue was taken, the dermatologist will remove the entire mole by cutting out the entire mole and a rim of normal skin around it, and stitching the wound closed.