Am I at a greater risk for skin cancer if I have a lot of moles?

If you have a lot of moles on your body, you may have heard that you are at a greater risk of skin cancer. You have probably worried a lot about your moles and the possibility of getting melanoma, or skin cancer, and you might wonder whether or not you really have something to worry about.
June 19th, 2015

If you have a lot of moles on your body, you may have heard that you are at a greater risk of skin cancer. You have probably worried a lot about your moles and the possibility of getting melanoma, or skin cancer, and you might wonder whether or not you really have something to worry about. Unfortunately, having certain types of moles or a large number of moles on your body can put you at an increased risk of melanoma, but you shouldn’t worry about every mole. Instead, you should assess your moles before you start worrying about developing skin cancer. If you are concerned that you might be at a risk for skin cancer, however, you should consider consulting a physician to have yourself checked out and to talk about risk factors and ways to prevent skin cancer.

Types of Moles

All moles are not created equally. It is completely normal to have moles on your body if you are between the age of ten and 40, but some moles should be taken more seriously than others. Therefore, you should assess the types of moles that you have before worrying if you are at an increased risk of skin cancer.

Common Moles

Common moles are round-shaped moles that appear on your body. Some people are born with noticeable moles; others are born with small moles that aren’t noticeable when they are babies but that are more apparent as they grow. Sometimes, moles develop with age; these moles typically appear on areas of your body that are or have been exposed to the sun. These moles should be round or oval-shaped, and they should be smooth but should have distinct edges and might be dome-shaped. These moles come in brown, pink and tan, and individuals with darker hair typically have darker moles than those who have blonde or another lightly colored shade of hair. Although common moles do sometimes turn into melanoma, they aren’t as dangerous or put you at as much of a risk as abnormal moles. You should watch out for your common moles, however. If you notice a color change or an uneven change in size as an adult, you should consult a doctor immediately. Bleeding or oozing, a dry or scaly surface, an itchy feeling on the mole or a hard or lumpy feeling should also be taken seriously.

Abnormal Moles

An abnormal mole, which is also known as a dysplastic nevus or atypical mole, is a more likely sign of skin cancer risk than a common mole, but you should know that abnormal moles typically do even out over time and typically do not turn into skin cancer. If you are wondering whether or not you have an abnormal mole, you should examine the mole. If it is much larger than a common mole, is formed from a mixture of colors, has an irregular edge or feels scaly or pebbly, it is probably a dysplastic nevus. By consulting a doctor, you can find out more about your skin cancer risk and check to make sure that your abnormal mole is not dangerous.

Number of Moles

Along with paying attention to the type of moles that you have, it is also important for you to look at the number of moles that you have on your body. Although common moles are pretty normal and shouldn’t always be a cause for concern, having more than 50 common moles on your body puts you at a drastically increased risk of skin cancer. If you have a lot of moles on your body, regardless of the type of moles that they are, yo ushould consult your physician.

Other Risk Factors

Although having certain types of moles or an abnormal and excessive amount of moles can put you at risk for skin cancer, there are other risk factors that you should look out for in order to protect yourself. For instance, you should take a look at your skin tone; unfortunately, very pale skin can put you at an increased risk for skin cancer. Even if your skin isn’t very pale, you should also use caution in the sun if you are prone to being sunburned or if you live in an exceptionally sunny climate. Exposure to certain unnatural substances, such as arsenic, can put you at a risk for skin cancer, and exposure to radiation can be risky as well. If you have ever had skin cancer in the past, you should keep in mind that you are more prone to developing it again, and a family history of skin cancer isn’t a good sign either. It is also important for you to take care of yourself if you have a weakened immune system because it puts you at an increased risk of developing skin cancer as well.

More information: https://www.yalemedicine.org/

About the author

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. With 24,000 employees, UCHealth includes 12 acute-care full-service hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.