July 01, 2017

Should I see a doctor for a mole that bleeds on occasion?

Q: Should I see a doctor for a mole that bleeds on occasion?

A: Yes. Although it may not be serious, a mole that bleeds is a possible sign of melanoma — a rare but serious skin cancer that can spread if left untreated.

Moles are groups of pigment cells and nearly everyone has them. Most of them are harmless, but it's possible for melanoma to develop in or near a mole. A change in a mole — or a new mole — can be a first sign of melanoma.

It's not always easy to distinguish melanoma from a normal mole or other area of pigmentation. One of the most important things you can do is to become familiar with the location and pattern of your moles and monitor for changes. Examine your body in front of a mirror. Ask someone to look at your back. If you notice any changes in shape, size or color of a mole or new mole growth, show it to your doctor. If it looks suspicious, your doctor or a skin doctor (dermatologist) can remove the mole (biopsy) to have it checked for cancerous cells. This procedure is usually quick and it may be all the treatment you need.

When checking your moles, follow the ABCDE guide from the American Academy of Dermatology. Look for:

  • Asymmetry
  • Border irregularity
  • Color variations within the same mole
  • Diameter greater than the eraser tip of a pencil
  • Evolving color, shape or size

Also talk to your doctor about any itching, tenderness or pain, as well as changes in skin texture — such as scaling, shedding...