In a healthy individual,  it is normal to have around 15 moles during adolescence, and between 20 to 40 moles when the individual is fully grown.  However, no matter the age it is always important to observe these moles.  If changes are noticed, some changes may indicate the presence of skin cancer.

Moles can be clear signs of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.  According to The Skin Cancer Foundation located in New York, melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.  In advanced stages, it may metastasize to internal organs, risking the life of the patient.  However, melanoma rarely attacks without notice; this is why it is very important to stay alert and find an early cure.

Several studies have shown that individuals 40 years of age and older have a higher incidence of skin cancer.  Despite this data, there has been an increase in the number of new cases in younger patients.  Therefore it is very important to stay alert and take the proper precautions.

Any suspicious moles need to be carefully inspected by a medical skin care professional.

Early diagnosis

The first step in discovering a potential problem is to carefully examine the skin and moles.  The second step is to visit the dermatologist to diagnose any special condition of the skin.

Detection of changes in moles is not an easy task because many characteristics may be considered normal.

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, the first five letters of the alphabet work as a guide to warn us about the first signs of melanoma:

  • A as in Asymmetry: if a line is drawn in the middle of the mole and both halves do not match, it means they are asymmetric and this could be a sign of melanoma.
  • B as in Border: A benign mole has regular and matching borders (edges), unlike melanoma.  The edges in early melanoma tend to differ: they may be wavy or irregular.
  • C as in Color: Benign moles tend to be brown or brownish and have one color only.  Melanoma may have more than one color and have different shades of brown, black, red, white or blue.
  • D as in Diameter: Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than benign moles.  Melanoma lesions commonly have a diameter larger than 0.25 inches, although in early stages they could be smaller.
  • E as in Evolution: Benign moles remain unchanged over time.  If a mole starts to change in size, color, shape, texture, or if there is bleeding, itching, or scabs forming, it means it needs to be treated and diagnosed as soon as possible.

Prevention

Melanoma is caused by intense and repetitive exposure to the sun.  Some of the recommendations for prevention are:

Using SPF lip balms and lotions: SPF 15 should be the minimum used, or 30 SPF if there is an extensive sunlight exposure.  Wearing hats and sunglasses with UV light protection may also help.

Avoid direct sun exposure: Staying in the shade during certain hours may significantly reduce the risk of melanoma.  Between 10:00 a.m. and 02:00 p.m. the sun’s rays cause the greatest damage to the skin, causing trauma to the DNA of skin cells in only 15 minutes.

If you are interested in learning more about skin cancer treatments in Costa Rica, or would like to speak with a skin cancer specialist in Costa Rica, please fill out the “Find a Doctor” form.  A participating medical specialist will contact you to discuss your case.