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It’s probably time to get your moles checked—here’s why

If you can’t remember the last time you had a skin exam, you need one.

Person getting moles on skin checked out by medical professional. Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / LightFieldStudios / Prostock-Studio

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Taking care of your skin involves more than a multi-step skincare routine or a fancy facial tool. It means keeping tabs on the state of your skin health, which includes monitoring moles and getting them checked by a doctor. If this isn’t already part of your routine, learn about the importance of starting those checkups from Dr. Alexander Zuriarrain, quadruple board-certified plastic surgeon with Zuri Plastic Surgery in Miami.

Why should you get your moles checked?

When you visit your doctor, they will inspect any beauty marks or moles for “ABCD,” says Zuriarrain: “This means that you are searching for moles that have asymmetry (A), growing outside of the borders (B), have color irregularities (C), and [have increased in] diameter (D).” These factors could indicate skin cancer, including melanoma. “It can be a fatal disease process if left undetected and untreated,” Zuriarrain says. If your primary care physician notes any abnormalities, they can refer you to a dermatologist. From there, “if a lesion is large and requires excision with reconstruction, then you’re best to see a plastic and reconstructive surgeon,” Zuriarrain says.

How often should you get your moles checked?

Person getting mole inspected by medical professional with a magnifying glass.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Malikov Aleksandr

Ask your physician to check your moles at your annual physical.

You should receive a “full dermatologic evaluation” once a year, but more frequently—about every three to six months—if you have concerning moles that need monitoring, says Zuriarrain. “Your skin specialist will be able to tell you the frequency of evaluations that are necessary based on your particular situation,” he says. “The amount of moles, the type of moles, the history of any skin malignancy, as well as [your] age and prior sun exposure will be determining factors.”

When should you start getting your moles checked?

Skin exams should begin in childhood, but if you’ve never received one, the time is now to schedule an appointment. From there, you’ll want to be checked annually, or sooner if you notice any suspicious skin marks yourself. It’s fine to see your primary care physician, or seek out a dermatologist for a head-to-toe skin check.

How can you monitor your moles at home?

Person displaying shoulder with moles on skin.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Albina Gavrilovic

Alert your doctor to any changes you see in your moles or other skin blemishes.

While you should be diligent about visiting your doctor for check-ups, it's important to also keep an eye out for concerning skin changes on your own. Your phone may be the best tool for this: “You should take photos of the moles and follow them periodically,” Zuriarrain suggests. “You can have a family member also be a part in the follow-up of these moles at home between dermatology appointments.”

Particularly, look for newly emerged moles or beauty marks, which can be pink or brown in color, take photos, and remember ABCD: Any that are asymmetrical in shape, have irregular borders that appear “notched or scalloped,” have changed color or grown larger since you last checked, or that measure more than 6 millimeters in diameter could indicate melanoma or another skin cancer.

If you see changes, you can send the photos to your doctor for their assessment and to determine if you need a prompt in-person exam.

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