If you have a mole that concerns you, your family doctor can usually let you know if it's normal or needs further investigation. He or she may then refer you to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist) for diagnosis and treatment.
It's a good idea to arrive for your appointment well-prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready.
What you can do
- List any changes you've noticed or any new symptoms you're experiencing. Include any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Bring a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- If you've had a melanoma or a mole removed in the past, note the location of the lesion and also the date of removal. If you have the biopsy report, bring it with you to the appointment.
- Don't wear makeup or opaque nail polish to your appointment. These products make it difficult for your doctor to perform a thorough skin exam.
- List questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For moles, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Do you think this mole might be cancerous?
- What's the most appropriate course of action?
- How can I tell if a mole needs to be looked at?
- Can I prevent more moles from developing?
- Do you have any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
Dec. 06, 2014
- When did you first notice this mole?
- Have you always had it, or is it new?
- Have you noticed any changes in this mole, such as its color or shape?
- Have you had other moles surgically removed in the past? If so, do you know if they were unusual (atypical) or malignant?
- Do you have a family history of atypical moles, melanoma or other cancers?
- Have you had peeling sunburns or frequent exposure to ultraviolet radiation, such as from tanning beds?
- Moles. MedlinePlus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/moles.html. Accessed Sept. 10, 2014.
- Argenziano G, et al. Twenty nevi on the arms: A simple rule to identify patients younger than 50 years of age at higher risk for melanoma. European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2014;23:458.
- Wise J. Number of moles could predict breast cancer risk. BMJ. 2014;348:g3739. http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g3739.full.print? Accessed Sept. 10, 2014.
- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookid=392. Accessed Sept. 10, 2014.
- Prevention guidelines. Skin Cancer Foundation. http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/prevention-guidelines. Accessed Sept. 10, 2014.
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 19, 2014.
- What does a mole look like? National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/prevention/skin/molephotos. Accessed Sept. 10, 2014.
- Common moles, dysplastic nevi, and risk of melanoma. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/moles. Accessed Sept. 10, 2014.
- Hawryluk EB, et al. Pediatric melanoma, moles, and sun safety. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2014;61:279.
- Sunscreens. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreens#.UbdQaJzm9lP. Accessed Nov. 20, 2014.
- FDA sheds light on sunscreens. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm258416.htm. Accessed Nov. 20, 2014.
- Moles in children: What parents should know. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.skincarephysicians.com/skincancernet/moles_children.html. Accessed Sept. 10, 2014.
- What you need to know about melanoma and other skin cancers. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin. Accessed Sept. 12, 2014.
- Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 12, 2014.
- Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 12, 2014.
- Skin examinations. SkinCancerNet. http://www.skincarephysicians.com/skincancernet/skin_examinations.html. Accessed Sept. 12, 2014.