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Men's Health: Are Moles with Hair Cancerous?

UW Health dermatologist Dr. Apple Bodemer answers questions related to men's health.In an going series from MensHealth.com, UW Health physicians answer common questions on a variety of health issues. This month, Dr. Apple Bodemer explains how to identify melanoma.

 

I heard that moles with hair growing out of them are not cancerous. Is that true?

 

In general, this is a good rule of thumb.

 

Cancer does not grow normal structures, so if you see a hair growing out of a mole, that is generally reassuring. I have never seen a mole with hair that was abnormal. However, melanoma—which is the most worrisome and potentially deadly type of skin cancer—can develop from an already existing mole that undergoes cancerous changes.

 

The types of moles that tend to grow hair are very unlikely to transform into melanoma, but it is theoretically possible. If this happens, the hair would become abnormal and stop growing. I have personally never seen an abnormal mole with hair.


With melanoma, early detection is the key. If caught very early, it doesn’t really impact your longevity, but melanoma caught at later stages is deadly. Features that indicate a mole is abnormal include:


Asymmetry - You should be able to draw a line through the mole and both halves should match up approximately.


Irregular border - Many moles will have a notch in the border or slightly fuzzy edges, but the border should be generally smooth and not ragged. Lobules situated on one side should arouse concern.


Variations in color - Especially when you start to see very dark brown, blue, or black mixed with pink or red.


Larger size - In genera,l normal moles are less than 6mm which is about the size of the pencil eraser.


Change over time - In my book, this is the most important feature to watch for. While some melanomas look concerning from the very beginning, many start off looking normal, but evolve to have more concerning features over time.


The most powerful tool you have for catching skin cancer early is to do regular skin self-checks. I generally recommend spending 5 minutes once a month just looking at your skin. This will help you get comfortable with the kinds of moles you have and allow you to identify something that is new or changing.

 

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Date Published: 08/11/2016

News tag(s):  mens healthwellnesshealthy bodiesapple a bodemerdermatologyskin care

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