Moles, known medically as nevi, are clusters of pigmented cells that often appear as small, dark brown spots or raised lesions. However, moles can come in a range of colors and can develop virtually anywhere on your body.

Most moles are harmless, but in some cases, moles may become pre-cancerous or cancerous. Monitoring moles and other pigmented patches is an important step in detecting skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma. Not all melanomas develop from pre-existing moles, but many begin in or near a mole or other dark spot on the skin.

What if I have a changing mole?

Any new or changing mole should be evaluated to make sure that it is not cancerous. If you have numerous moles – 20 or more – you are at increased risk for atypical or dysplastic moles. If you have a family history of melanoma or atypical moles, then you are also at increased risk for developing atypical moles and rarely melanoma.

Examine your skin carefully on a regular basis – ideally once a month, especially if you have a family history of melanoma – to detect early skin changes that may signal melanoma.