The following measures can help limit the development of moles and the main complication of moles — melanoma.
Watch for changes
Become familiar with the location and pattern of your moles. Regularly examine your skin carefully to look for skin changes that may signal melanoma. Ideally, do self-exams once a month, especially if you have a family history of melanoma.
Do a head-to-toe check, including your scalp, palms and fingernails, armpits, chest, genital area, feet (the soles, toenails and between the toes), and between the buttocks. If necessary, use a hand-held mirror along with a wall mirror to scan hard-to-see places, such as your back.
If you have many moles or unusual-looking moles, you may want to have a full-body mole check by a dermatologist.
To detect melanomas or other skin cancers, use this ABCDE skin self-examination guide:
- A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.
- B is for border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders.
- C is for color. Look for growths that have changed color, have many colors or have uneven color.
- D is for diameter. Look for new growth in amole larger than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters).
- E is for evolving. Watch for moles that change over weeks or months.
Protect your skin
Take measures to protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, such as from the sun or tanning beds. UV radiation has been linked to increased melanoma risk. And children who haven't been protected from sun exposure tend to develop more moles.
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- Avoid peak sun times. It's best to avoid overexposure to the sun. If you must be outdoors, try to stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest.
- Use sunscreen year-round. Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outdoors, even on cloudy days. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply it generously and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or sweating. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
- Cover up. Sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats, long sleeves and other protective clothing can help you avoid damaging UV rays. You might also want to consider clothing that's made with fabric specially treated to block UV radiation.
- Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.
- 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.
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