Moles are small dark spots that commonly grow on the skin. This growth occurs when pigment cells in the skin form a cluster instead of spreading evenly. The moles in our body normally change over time, however, there are instances that these noticeable changes might trigger your worries. Buhay na nunal, as we call it in the Philippines, is known to be moles that tend to get bigger over time.
Do we need to worry about it? Let’s find out.
What is the difference between buhay na nunal and common mole?
A common mole is usually a 5 millimeter round or oval-shaped dot that has a smooth surface and a defined edge. Common moles grow from the waist up, on parts of the skin that are always exposed to the sun, and are rarely found on the buttocks, breasts, and scalp.
The common moles appear in different colors like pink, tan, or brown. People with darker skin tone tend to have darker moles than those with fair skin.
On the other hand, buhay na nunal or atypical mole (dysplastic nevi) is a type of mole that is quite bigger (6mm) than a common mole. Its surface can be smooth or pebbly in texture.
When compared to a common mole, an atypical mole has irregular borders that blur into the skin and appear in a mixture of colors (pinkish-brownish mole). Atypical moles are often found on areas that are always exposed to the sun, like the back.
An atypical mole can grow anywhere on the body, even in areas like the scalp, breasts, buttocks, and other parts from the waist down.
Most common and atypical moles are benign. However, atypical moles have a greater chance to develop into a type of skin cancer known as malignant melanoma.
What changes to worry about?
Normally, buhay na nunal is present in 1 out of 10 people.
If you’re part of these statistics, then it is recommended by doctors for you to check your mole regularly. This is to see if there are changes that might be a warning sign of melanoma.
You should worry about your atypical mole when:
- It changes in color and might appear with red, white, grey, or blue spots.
- The mole unusually gets smaller or bigger.
- Its shape, texture, and height changes.
- The surface texture of the mole becomes dry and scaly.
- It starts to itch, bleed, or ooze.
- The mole feels lumpy or becomes hard.
To ensure your safety, it is best to consult your doctor for a skin exam to see if you’re at risk of developing melanoma. Doctors, usually dermatologists or a plastic surgeon, will run a biopsy by removing your mole and examine it to know if it’s cancerous.
When should I get my mole removed?
Doctors do not suggest the removal of buhay na nunal and common moles, since most of these moles don’t develop into skin cancer. Removing these moles does not also guarantee that you won’t develop melanoma in the future.
Melanoma can grow quickly in any area of your body, even if you get your moles removed. It can even be in areas that are not often exposed to sunlight. That is why doctors only encourage their patient to remove a mole if it changes in color, texture, and overall appearance, or if a new colored skin appears on your body.
Melanoma warning signs
The ABCDE warning sign is a guide used to determine warning signs of melanoma. Remember these letters the next time you check on your moles.
A for Asymmetry. The shape of the mole is uneven. For example, the other side of the mole is bumpier than the other.
B for Border. Melanoma lesions have crooked or irregular edges.
C for Color. The color of the mole might appear tan or brown with spots or patches of white, red, pink, gray, or blue.
D for Diameter. A mole might be a melanoma if its size is wider than 6 millimeters.
E for Evolving. The most concerning sign of melanoma is when the mole has changed over the past weeks or months.
What makes you at risk of melanoma?
These are the factors that can increase your risk of developing melanoma:
- Too much exposure to the sun
- Weakened immune system
- Family history of melanoma
- Patronizing indoor tanning like tanning beds.
- People with buhay na nunal (atypical moles) or those who have too many moles on their bodies.
- People with fair complexion, blond or red hair, light-colored eyes, and those with freckles.
- Race or ethnicities with lighter complexions are more likely to have melanoma than tanned or black races or ethnicities.
- People who suffered from skin cancer in the past.
- Melanoma is more prevalent in young adults than in other types of cancer. However, half of the people diagnosed with melanoma are ages 50 and above, and the other half are younger than 50.
- People with inherited health conditions like Werner syndrome, pigmentosum, retinoblastoma, and hereditary ovarian and breast cancers.
Buhay na nunal might look like a normal mole, but this tiny spot might lead to melanoma. Being knowledgeable about what your moles must look like will be a big help for you to identify if there are changes you need to worry about.
Moles vary in color, shape, and texture. That is why, it is best to consult a medical professional at once, when there have been noticeable changes on your moles for the past few weeks or if there are new mole growths on your body.
Learn more about Skin Health, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.