We know that those with more than 50 moles have an increased risk of developing melanoma, but interestingly, new research has discovered than those with less than 50 moles may be at risk of more aggressive melanomas than those with many more moles. We’re not sure why, but Dr Caroline Kim investigated.
Those with more than 50 moles, Dr Kim explained, were more aware of their cancer risks, and therefore had more regular mole checks. People with fewer moles, however, were left with more aggressive melanomas, but was this because they were checked less frequently, allowing the cancer to progress?
Almost 300 melanoma patients had their charts reviewed. Eighty-nine of these patients had more than 50 moles, with 192 having fewer than 50 moles.
- Those with fewer moles had thicker, more aggressive melanoma than those with many moles
- Thinner, less aggressive melanoma was observed in those with both a high number of moles and atypical moles (another melanoma risk factor)
- Those with over 50 moles were more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma at a younger age than those with fewer moles
Dr Kim attributes the results to several factors:
- Healthcare providers can more readily identify patients with more than 50 moles, and thus educate these patients regarding their risks
- Regular skin exams may then follow, allowing detection of melanoma at a younger age, when the melanoma is thinner, and less aggressive
- The biological differences in those with many moles compared to those with fewer moles may be responsible for the differences in the two groups
- Melanomas are known to genetically differ – it’s possible that the two patient groups’ differences result in more or less aggressive melanomas, outside of checkup regularity
Skin-cancer detection is required regularly in everyone with any moles, not just those with many moles. Early detection means better outcomes, which is why self-examinations are recommended, but regular mole maps by a professional can save lives.
How to spot a dodgy mole
- A mole is asymmetrical
- The border of the mole is irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined
- Mole colour changes across the mole
- The mole is bigger than 6mm in diameter (a pencil eraser)
- The mole’s size, shape, or colour changes over time
- Spots on the skin change or appear different to others, itch, or bleed