Check Those MOLES!

Normal Moles (Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute)
Normal Moles (Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute)

I’m so lucky NOT to have  MOLES…. as in – moles that are bigger than a pinhead.  I have very few moles on my body and they aren’t even visible at first glance.  BIG MOLES kind of scare me.

Normal Moles   (Photo Credit:  National Cancer Institute)
Normal Moles (Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute)

It was five years ago when my teacher friend Jean died from melanoma, a kind of cancer from what looks like a mole but is not really a mole.  She succumbed after four  years of battling it through various treatment, at the age of 28.

My father had a big round elevated mole on top of his head which he often times scrape by accident when he combs his hair.  We had it removed as soon as doctor said it was still benign.

Not meant to scare you, but wouldn’t it be better to be informed in advance rather than when it is too late?  Life is meant to be enjoyed with families, and not to be spent on fighting ailments, especially cancer.

So, what’s with the moles?

Normal moles are of different sizes and colors, much like in the picture above.  There are small skin discoloration that looks like freckles and are called macules.  Some are larger  macules and there are some moles that are raised above the level of the skin.  Other moles are lighter in color, some has lost its dark color.  These are not melanoma types.

So if you have ONLY these types of moles, there is no cause to be alarmed.  However, if your moles are quite different and they appear to be changing so much after some time with regards to :

  • shape, borders, color, size or alteration in appearance or showing abnormal growth or some form of pain can be felt from it, please have it checked immediately.

Instances of cancerous moles are most often neglected until it is too late. We seldom pay attention to our moles because almost all of us (if not everyone) have those moles on various parts of our body.  While most people have benign moles, it cannot be ignored that there had been recorded cases wherein seemingly normal and benign moles have become cancerous and led to skin cancer like melanoma.

My friend Jean had her this cancer beginning at the back of her neck, just below her hairline.  Such a waste of a good educator who was so loved in her school.

The findings at    Skin Cancer Foundation  tells us that moles are not to be ignored because

A sample of melanoma   (Photo Credit:  Wikipedia)
A sample of melanoma (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

they could very well be melanoma.  To quote:

  • One person dies of melanoma every hour (every 62 minutes).
  • One in 55 people will be diagnosed with melanoma during their lifetime.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old.
  • The survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the skin, is about 99 percent.The survival rate falls to 15 percent for those with advanced disease.
  • The vast majority of mutations found in melanoma are caused by ultraviolet radiation.
  • The incidence of many common cancers is falling, but the incidence of melanoma continues to rise at a rate faster than that of any of the seven most common cancers.Between 1992 and 2004, melanoma incidence increased 45 percent, or 3.1 percent annually.
  • An estimated 123,590 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the US in 2011 — 53,360 noninvasive (in situ) and 70,230 invasive, with nearly 8,790 resulting in death.
  • Melanoma accounts for less than five percent of skin cancer cases, but it causes more than 75 percent of skin cancer deaths.
  • Survival with melanoma increased from 49 percent (1950 – 1954) to 92 percent (1996 – 2003).
  • Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer for males and sixth most common for females.
  • Women aged 39 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer except breast cancer.
  • About 65 percent of melanoma cases can be attributed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
  • One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.
  • A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age.

What we call MOLES are actually benign (or non-cancerous) melanocytic tumor termed as NEVI, which are not usually present at birth but begin to appear in children and teenagers.  Those who were born with portions of colored skin which we  have termed BIRTH MARKS  are actually called CONGENITAL NEVI (singular is Nevus).   Most moles will never cause any problems, but someone  who has more than 50 normal moles is said to have a higher risk of developing Melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.

Studies have it that all cancers are caused by damage to the DNA inside cells. This damage can be inherited in the form of genetic mutations, but in most cases, it builds up over a person’s lifetime and is triggered by factors in their environment. DNA damage causes the cell to grow out of control, leading to a tumor.   Melanoma is usually caused by damage from Ultra Violet light from the sun, however,  the UV light from sunbeds can also contribute to the disease.

This should somehow serve as a reminder that too much sunburn could contribute to skin cancer, even melanoma.  So if there’s something strange in your “moles”, who are you gonna call?  Yes, indeed; call your doctor right away!


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