9 mole myths you need to stop believing

1. If a person has a lot of moles, then he will definitely have melanoma

Myth. A large number of moles is indeed associated with the risk of developing skin melanoma during life, but such an event is not at all necessary.

The presence of a large number of moles on the body indicates that there are mutations in skin melanocytes that cause the formation of benign formations, the so-called melanocytic nevi. This is a favorable background for the development of melanoma, however, additional mutations that will provoke the appearance of malignant tumors may not occur.

In addition, I note that the term “mole” is unscientific, colloquial. Speaking of moles, people mean both benign and malignant skin tumors. Moles are also called hemangiomas (vascular tumors), and seborrheic keratomas, and pigmented melanocytic nevi, which only occasionally become precursors of melanoma.

In about 80% of cases, melanoma occurs de novo – as a new formation on the skin – and only in one in five cases, its appearance is associated with a mole.

2. The darker the mole, the more likely it is to turn into cancer.

Myth. The degree of pigmentation of the nevus is not related to whether cancer arises from this mole or not. I repeat: in most cases, melanoma occurs as an independent formation, not associated with moles.

A new growth on the skin may indeed be more pigmented than the rest, and differ in appearance from other formations.

The difference between a neoplasm and existing ones is a symptom of the “ugly duckling”. Its detection may indicate early melanoma and should be the reason for additional examinations.

This may be, for example, dermatoscopy, as well as a histological examination of a surgically removed mole.

I emphasize once again: benign melanocytic nevi can be of different colors – this is completely normal, and there is no proven connection between the dark color of a mole and its degeneration into cancer.

It should also be borne in mind that melanoma is not necessarily black.

There is a so-called non-pigmented melanoma, which can visually look like a pink or flesh-colored formation, but by no means black.

3. Only moles that change color or size are dangerous.

Not really a myth. Indeed, if the mole began to change, then both the patient and the specialist should pay attention to the dynamics of changes.

In the event that the mole changes color and shape, if its boundaries change, if there are unpleasant sensations in the area of ​​the mole (itching, burning, pain) and if it is obvious that something is happening to it, you should contact a specialist. Sometimes melanoma occurs at the site of benign melanocytic nevi.

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In addition, at the initial stages of melanoma development, sometimes even a specialist cannot identify whether this neoplasm is malignant or benign. Changes in size, color and shape can be an additional clue that will indicate the malignancy of the formation.

Well, in general, a set of ABCDE symptoms is used for skin melanoma:

  • A – asymmetry – asymmetry,
  • B – border – uneven borders,
  • C – color – heterogeneous color,
  • D – diameter – diameter 5 mm or more,
  • E – evolution – dynamic changes in the specified characteristics.

4. In the sun, large moles are best covered with a band-aid.

Myth. There is no need to cover moles – regardless of their size – with a band-aid. It will not protect against melanoma in any way.

Since the vast majority of melanoma cases occur de novo, it is important to remember to protect the skin from UV in general. To do this, you can and should wear sun-protective clothing – it can be both beach and casual. It is necessary to apply sunscreens to exposed areas of the body, which are now produced by different brands and have different degrees of protection.

The most important thing is to change your behavior.

A tan that does not bring any benefit to the body should not become a fetish, and getting it should not be the goal.

5. It is better not to touch moles – any damage to them is dangerous.

Myth. You can often hear stories about the fact that “a person removed a mole and soon died”, from which it is often concluded that it is better not to touch, remove or injure moles.

The thing is that patients quite often turn to doctors at stage II, III, IV of skin melanoma, when the tumor begins to metastasize, or the patient already has regional or distant metastases.

They come with complaints about an unusual mole and the doctor removes it surgically for further histological examination, without which it is impossible to determine the nature of the formation and, if necessary, prescribe treatment. But, since they turned already quite late, melanoma is still progressing. Without proper treatment, this can be fatal.

Most of the inhabitants associate the death of the patient not with the development of the disease, but with the removal of the mole. In fact, the mole was removed already at a late stage of the disease and it was not the removal that caused death, but the fact that it was performed too late.

Another common belief is that damage to a mole will inevitably lead to its degeneration into melanoma. Both a benign mole and melanoma can really be injured – after damage, it bleeds, which worries patients and becomes a reason to see a doctor. Sometimes, in the course of further diagnostics, patients are diagnosed not with a benign mole, but with melanoma, which did not appear at all because the mole was injured, but developed earlier in the patient.

Also, for melanoma (malignant tumor) at certain stages of its development, the appearance of ulceration is quite characteristic – in this case, it can bleed on its own, without any injury, but the patient believes that the bleeding was caused by some kind of injury. In reality, the essence of the process is that at first a malignant tumor developed, the patient did not pay attention to it until the moment of bleeding, and after it began, he turned to a doctor who diagnosed a malignant tumor.

Evidence that an injured mole is more likely to turn into melanoma than one that has not been injured has not been obtained, although this issue was studied quite actively at one time.

An injury may be a reason to see a doctor and observe, but it does not serve as an indication for removal.

6. Moles should not be removed in the summer

Not really a myth. There are two types of deletions. In some cases, people want to remove a mole simply for aesthetic reasons: in such a situation, you can discuss with your doctor what season is best to do it. The point is not that summer itself carries some kind of danger, but that there is a lot of sun in summer, which can affect scar formation and pigmentation, it is hot in summer, the skin sweats more, and skin damage can heal worse.

But there are other cases, more serious ones, when a mole needs to be removed for oncological indications in order to send it for a histological examination and determine whether it is benign or malignant.

In such a situation, the time of the year does not play a role, it is necessary to act as soon as possible, the better.

7. To remove a mole, you can just go to a beautician

Myth. To remove a mole, you need to at least go to a dermatologist or oncologist. Before removal, it is necessary to establish a clinical diagnosis – to understand the nature of the skin formation, to understand that it is benign and does not have any signs of a malignant process or even dubious signs.

In suspicious cases, dermatologists themselves refer the patient to an oncologist, who makes a verdict – whether it is possible to remove a mole by cosmetic methods or not.

8. It is still impossible to remove a mole “with ends”

Myth. Moles can and should be removed precisely “with ends”. The main requirement for the removal of melanocytic nevi is radicality.

The best way for these purposes is surgical, which helps to remove both benign and malignant formations forever.

This method is also optimal for obtaining the highest quality material for the histological examination of the mole.

9. Moles should only be removed with liquid nitrogen or laser to avoid scarring.

Myth. Let me remind you: firstly, people call a variety of formations moles, and secondly, some of these formations can be malignant.

Correct diagnosis is very important – the doctor must understand what exactly he has to remove. The method of removal is selected taking into account the characteristics of the formation that needs to be removed.

If we are talking about a knowingly benign formation, then you can use the so-called cosmetic removal methods: laser, radio wave, sometimes cryodestruction (the so-called “liquid nitrogen”). In the event that the nature of the formation is unknown – it is not clear whether it is malignant or benign, or there are some, even minimal, doubts about its good quality – then we can only talk about surgical removal with subsequent histological examination in the laboratory.

It is important to correctly identify what kind of education is to be removed, which only a qualified and competent specialist can do. The choice of removal method should be adequate to the clinical diagnosis.

Read also: How to get rid of melanoma? An oncologist explains

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