Moles, or nevi, are growths on the skin that develop when pigment cells (melanocytes) grow in clusters. Most adults have between 10 and 40 common moles. A common mole is usually smaller than about 5 millimeters (about 1/4 inch, the width of a pencil eraser). It is round or oval, has a smooth surface with a distinct edge (or are flat), and is uniform in color. Although common moles are not cancerous, people who have more than 50 common moles have an increased chance of developing melanoma. You should make an appointment if you notice a new mole or notice any of the following changes in a common mole:
The current recommendation is to screen high risk individuals at an interval determined by the individual risk factors.
Your doctor will explain what type of abnormalities they are looking for. Examples include atypical moles and melanoma as well as other types of skin cancer such as Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Cancer (SCC).