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Mountains or Molehills?

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Today I’m going to talk about a serious subject: moles.

When do mole(hills) become mountains? The topic of moles and their potential of being cancerous came up in our lessons on a weekly basis at esthetics school. Moles are on the esthetician’s checklist when analysing people’s skin and if we see something fishy (like in the photos on the right-most side in the graphic below), we send our customers to their doctor.

As for me, because I’m fair-haired and fair-skinned, I’ve been aware of my own moles since childhood. I have one mole on my right upper-cheek and apparently, according to those who study the locations of moles on the body and how they relate to your personality — yes there are people who do that :> — my mole means I’m sensitive. But I digress.

Anyway, when I was in grades 5 and 6, my family lived in beautiful Hawaii. In the month of February, after we had been living there for over a year, a family came to visit us from Toronto. We went to a water park and spent the day splashing in the pools and waterfalls and zipping down the water slides. In those days, (circa 1980) wearing sunscreen was not considered essential — in fact, some people often bathed in baby oil and used mirrors to reflect the sun toward their skin for a “better” tan — cringe! :<.

I don’t recall anyone insisting that I wear any kind of sun protection on that particular day; I do remember saying something like, “I don’t need sunblock, I’ve lived here long enough, I’m used to the sun.” I don’t think the adults should have listened to my 10-year-old logic, but what can ya do, the damage was done and I got severely burned. And the burn was so bad, I developed oozing blisters. I remember going to Bellows beach the next day and thankfully I wore a t-shirt but the red-striped t-shirt I chose was the smallest shirt I owned and it scratched against my skin as I played with my boogie board in the surf. The things you remember…

Now as an adult, my skin on my shoulders, back and decolleté (another fancy word I learned in school which refers to the area below the neck and above the breasts) is not pretty. There’s a lot of hyperpigmentation and the skin tone is uneven.

They say if you had a severe sunburn as a child, like I did, your chances of contracting skin cancer increases tremendously and that is why I am vigilant when it comes to the moles on my body. So, when I noticed a change in a mole on my upper thigh last November, I didn’t hesitate to show my doctor.

It was the strangest thing. The mole had been on the back of my leg for years but when I happened to see it one day as I was getting in the shower out of the corner of my eye, I was taken aback. It was this weird grayish colour. I didn’t look at it for more than a second because I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I just knew I didn’t like it.

Within a couple of weeks, I showed my doctor who couldn’t make heads or tails of it and he said to make an appointment for a biopsy early in the new year, after he comes back from Christmas vacation.

A few weeks later, my doctor removed the mole. He said it looked irritated and asked if I had been scratching it. “Maybe in my sleep,” I said.

Having the mole removed wasn’t so bad. As my doctor was cutting, he mentioned I wasn’t much of a bleeder and that comment reminded me of the British show, Doc Martin. So we chatted about this country doctor who gets nauseous every time he sees blood and before I knew it, he stitched me up and I went home.

I figured the results from the biopsy wouldn’t come back for a few weeks and aside from dealing with the stitches, I didn’t think much about my mole. Then my mother asked me if I had heard anything about my results and then she brought up the time when I got that severe sun burn. I was surprised she zeroed in on that day in Hawaii because she never mentioned her feelings about it before and I learned she has always been concerned about that burn, too. And then later on that very day, there was a message on my voice mail from my doctor’s office saying, “the results came back and the mole was benign and everything is normal.”

Whew. What a relief.

Regardless of the outcome, I’m glad I went to the trouble of having my mole checked out. It’s always better to face these things head on and not ignore them.

Do you have a similar story about a mole? Please leave a comment and tell us about it.

In the meantime, keep the textbook graphic below in the back of your mind when you come across a mole on your body. It outlines the ABCDE’s of moles and melanoma detection. Don’t let your mole become a mountain and the earlier you spot it, the better.

Look for:

  • A is for Asymmetrical shape: A common benign mole is round and symmetrical but if you were to draw a line through the middle of a melanomic mole, the two sides would not match or mirror each other.
  • B is for irregular Border: A common harmless mole has smooth, even borders while melanomas are frequently irregular in shape and have scalloped or notched edges.
  • C is for Changes in Colour: Common moles are generally a uniform shade of brown. Melanomas, on the other hand, come in a variety of shades of brown and black and some are even red, white or blue.
  • D is for Diameter: The size of the mole can be significant when it comes to cancer. Melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimetres (or 1/4 of an inch) (or the size of a pencil eraser).
  • E is for Evolving: Notice if there are any changes in the mole. When the mole changes in size, shape or colour, or begins to bleed or scab, these are unhealthy signs.

The ABCDE's of moles and melanoma detection.
The ABCDE's of moles and melanoma detection.

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  1. Seriously like the fresh air. I really liked this article. Thank you for your remarkable blog post.

  2. Wonderful information, sweet website template, stick to the great work

  3. […] up in the skin after the skin cells have been damaged. Skin damage can be caused by exposure to strong sunlight, pollution, toxins, cigarette smoke, x-rays, and drugs. Sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and other […]

  4. […] the meantime, for another story about moles, please read my blog post, “Mountains or Molehills” from February, 2011. And leave a comment if you’re a member of the mole on the cheek […]

  5. […] National Skin Cancer Awareness Month (U.S.) — Please read my blog post, “Mountains or Molehills?” […]

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