The largest organ in our body is the skin. Just like any other organ, the skin can give you clear signals that you should be able to read correctly. Moles are some of the most common. Keeping an eye on moles and other signs of conditions in your body can help you know what to do when you spot them.
We want to help you make that distinction, but it cannot replace professional advice. We’ve written some guidelines to help you interpret the messages your skin is sending you, but you’ll need to see a professional to be sure.
What are moles and why do they appear
Moles are skin growths that can vary in color from a person’s natural color to a different shade. They can appear anywhere on the skin, singly or in groups.
When pigment-producing cells in the skin, called melanocytes, grow in clusters instead of spreading out over the surface, moles form.
Most of them appear on the parts of the body most exposed to sunlight. So it’s possible that the more time you spend in the sun, the more spots you’ll get.
Why moles appear and why it is important to identify them
Most of the signs appear during childhood and up to the age of 20. By the time you reach adulthood, it’s common to have between 10 and 40 moles on your body.
In some cases, they can be hairy, and over the years they can slowly change, becoming a bit more patchy and lighter in color. However, in other cases, you may never notice any changes.
After being exposed to the sun, moles may darken. This can also occur during puberty or pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
When to have a closer look at them
While most of them are benign, in some cases you may need to take a closer look at them to make sure all is well. The idea is to examine the areas of the body that have spots using a mirror, for example, to look for spots in places regularly exposed to the sun (face, hands, legs, arms, neckline, and back). You can also ask a friend or someone else to help you.
In any case, you should see a dermatologist if you notice any of the following signs:
A mole looks different from the others on your body.
It appears after the age of 30.
Causes itching or bleeding.
Its color is not uniform.
You have irregular changes in your shape or one side looks different than the other.
Its diameter is larger than that of a pencil eraser.
How to identify a papilloma
Papillomas are pale or slightly brown bumps that hang from the surface of the skin. They are made up of loose collagen fibers and ducts embedded in thicker areas of the skin.
They usually appear on the neck, eyelids, and other places where there is friction, such as the breasts, groin, or armpits.
What differentiates these formations from moles is mainly their nature. Moles can sometimes turn into malignant cells, while papillomas are almost always benign.
What about warts
There is another type of skin problem that, unlike moles, is caused by a very common virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV) and is transmitted by direct contact with the skin or by sharing objects such as towels or washcloths. Common warts are usually harmless and go away on their own over time.
They usually appear on the fingers or hands, are characterized by being rough, and usually have a pattern of tiny black dots, which are small blood vessels of clotted blood. Others can appear on the soles of the feet and therefore cause discomfort when walking.
How do you usually protect your skin from environmental factors?