Dear Alice,

I have a mole that has appeared sometime in the last two years. It is underneath my pubic hair and it is about half an inch long with one raised area. I'm worried about it because it is larger than any others I have, and because I didn't have it as a child. It is NOT an STD, according to my ob/gyn. Could it be melanoma?? Thanks.

Dear Reader,

Since you are concerned your mole could be melanoma, you may want to make a dermatologist appointment. A dermatologist can tell you if this mole is skin cancer. You might also want to remember that melanoma can spread, with some types spreading faster than others. The good news is that it can be cured when caught early.

Melanocytes are healthy skin cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for tanning and for protecting the skin from the sun. Melanoma cells are melanocytes gone awry, as they continue to produce melanin beyond the skin's need. Melanoma also tends to metastasize (i.e., spread to other areas of the body).

The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests using an easy-to-remember A-B-C-D-E skin self-exam guide for inspecting moles and new skin growths for the possibility of skin cancer:

  • A — The mole or skin growth has an asymmetrical shape.
  • B — The border of the mole or skin growth is irregular — notched or scalloped.
  • C — The color of the mole or skin growth has an uneven color or several colors.
  • D — The diameter of the mole of skin growth is larger than 1/4 inch.
  • E — The mole or skin growth is evolving in size, shape, or color

Less common warning signs include changes in the surface of a mole; scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a bump or nodule; spread of color from the border of the growth into surrounding skin; and, a change in sensation, including itchiness, tenderness, or pain. Of course, regardless of whether or not your "mole" fits any of these descriptions, you may want to have it looked at as soon as possible.

Contact your primary care provider for a dermatology referral.

Good luck!

Alice!

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