Bigger Moles are Not Better

The ABCDE method to screen for melanoma simply means that a mole that meets any of these criteria should be examined by a physician:


  • Asymmetric
  • Border irregularity
  • Color variation
  • Diameter larger than six millimeters
  • Evolution or changes in the lesion

A recent study from New York University confirmed that lesions larger than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser) were more likely to be melanoma.

It is important to remember, though, that most moles which violate one or more of these criteria will in fact be normal. The trouble is that you cannot tell the difference, so it is best to have a physician examine it for you.

Telling the difference between a normal mole (pictured above) and a melanoma is what I do for a living.

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Photo: Simon Davison,

10 thoughts on “Bigger Moles are Not Better”

  1. Must say that this blog has somehow found its way to my visit-frequently list. I do enjoy reading the wide variety of topics, think you have a clean writing style, and am happy to see that you, unlike many dermatologists, don’t push ridiculously expensive lotions. Students have budgets!

    Having said that — do you find you have an excessive amount of worriers in your practice for mole checks?

    My father and I both have freckles and fifty plus dysplastic nevi. Most of them have irregular borders and are in places well out of the sun’s way. Fortunately none are <6mm and while some are splotchy, none have that ominous blue-black colour. I had a Spitz nevus/melanoma scare a few years ago and retain a decent amount of anxiety.

    I’m now back to once-a-year appointments, but have to restrain myself about every three months from booking another appointment, or demanding removal of the weirdest ones. I do watch them carefully if not as obsessively as I did after the excision.

    What I guess I want to know is: am I a common type in dermatologist practices? And do these patients tend to do anything at visits that I should avoid?

    I don’t come in with demands or piles of dubious printouts, so I’m hoping I don’t have any bad habits…other than making an impressive Freudian slip during the torso part of my last total body check. I imagine you have even better stories you can’t tell.

  2. Technically, that’s not a mole. It’s a mole rat. True moles have thick, velvety fur (it’s really quite soft) and lack rat’s prominent incisors.

  3. Oh my goodness that mole rat is just adorable!

    Anyway, on topic, I have a mole on my smile line next to my nose that has been growing little by little and it’s “popping” out more and more. It’s not gigantic but it’s definitely more prominent than when I was younger. Does this growing mole mean anything?


  4. Dear K-
    I think any dermatologist would love to have you in their practice; it is better for patients to show their physicains what they are concerned about than to ignore a possible skin cancer.

    I often tell patients with many moles not to worry. Patients who have dysplastic nevi are at slightly higher risk for developing melanoma, but the likelihood that a mole will turn into melanoma is still small. Family history of melanoma, previous melanomas, and history of sunburns all are important risk factors. Doing self checks, seeing a dermatologist regularly, and avoiding sunburns are all good preventative measures.

  5. Mark-
    LOL. That’s awesome. I hope I am better at telling a mole from a melanoma than I am from telling a mole from a mole rat! hahaha

  6. Connie-
    I, of course, cannot give any medical advice. It is aways safest to have any changing mole examined by a physician. Thanks for reading!

  7. whats that picture supposed to be it looks like an animal with teeth

  8. i have a mole on my thigh since i was born and also hair grows from it is that weird

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  10. Oh my! “It is important to remember, though, that most moles which violate one or more of these criteria will in fact be normal.” Thanks for posting this very informative.

    by: sphin

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