Why Having Only a Few Moles Doesn’t Mean No Problems

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Dermatologist with PatientAlthough melanoma is one of the most serious types of skin cancer, it is also highly preventable and treatable if caught early on. For this reason, many people with a large number of moles are often very diligent about maintaining regular preventive check-ups with their dermatologist. But what about those with very few moles?

Your Skin Cancer Risk May Be More Complex Than You Think

Having just a few moles is not necessarily “safer,” at least according to a study published in JAMA Dermatology. Findings suggest that people with 50 moles or less actually have an increased risk of developing thicker melanoma than those with more moles. In general, the thicker the melanoma, the worse the prognosis.

While there is still no cut-and-dry reasoning as to why this may be the case, there are a few possible hypotheses. One is that people with more moles tend to pay more attention to their skin health and are more likely to perform skin self-exams than their mole-less counterparts.

Another theory is that when you have a large number of normal moles, it’s much easier to spot something abnormal in a side-by-side comparison. Those with fewer amounts of moles may not as easily realize that something is out of the ordinary, and the delay in catching the abnormal mole may mean a thicker melanoma.

How to Spot an Abnormal Mole

Perform regular self-exams and schedule an annual visit with your dermatologist to make sure that you haven’t missed anything.

The key takeaway here is that everyone is at some risk of skin cancer and should therefore should take preventative measures to reduce that risk.

When scanning your body for moles, look for the ABCDEs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry
  • Borders that are irregular
  • Color that varies
  • Diameters that are larger
  • Evolution or change in any of these characteristics