A mole is by definition benign or non-cancerous; once it is diagnosed as cancerous it will be referred to as a malignant melanoma. Moles are created by melanin; this is the pigment that is found in the human body, depending on the type and quantities of melanin it will go on to determine your skin color, both naturally and also with exposure to the sun. For example, moles and freckles are created by high levels of melanin. Fortunately the vast majority of these moles are completely harmless and other than sometimes affecting confidence levels depending on their location, people tend to just leave them alone; in some cases they are even referred to as ‘beauty spots’. Sometimes they are congenital; however, most of them tend to develop as we grow older.
In the initial stages of the creation of a cancerous mole, the melanocytes start to grow out of control; the melanocytes are found between the outer layer of the skin or epidermis and the next layer or dermis. This stage is referred to as the radial growth phase, with the tumour being less than 1mm thick. At this time the cancerous cells will not have reached the blood vessels as they are lower down in the skin and it is thought unlikely that early-stage cancer will be spread to other areas of the body. If the cancerous mole is detected at this early stage it can usually be fully removed with surgery.
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What Causes a Cancerous Mole?
There are many different thought processes regarding the exact cause of a cancerous mole, even today doctors still haven’t been able to say with 100% accuracy the exact cause; however, it is thought that genes have a large part to play in the cause of them, plus there are a number of environmental reasons as to why moles become cancerous.
The Links Between Genetics and Cancerous Moles
It has long been thought that there are certain people who are more at risk from developing cancerous moles than others; research has grouped certain skin and hair types into the higher risk categories.
Very often someone who has fair skin is more likely to be diagnosed with a cancerous mole, as is someone who has red hair; also a person who is sunburns easily is said to be more at risk from developing a cancerous mole.
Scientists have also found that there is a clear link between some genes on chromosomes 9 and 22; these genes, however, are not associated to skin color.
Environmental Reasons for Developing Cancerous Moles
Perhaps even more issues lie in the environmental reasons for developing cancerous moles; very often these can be attributed to the following:
- Over exposure to the sun
- Excessive exposure to UV radiation in the form of sunbeds or tanning studios
- Severe sunburns in the past
- Certain antibiotics and medicines can make the skin more sensitive to damage from the sun
It would appear that people’s obsession with obtaining a perfect tan can indeed lead to some serious implications regarding their future health. The volume of cheaper holidays may well have also contributed to people developing a cancerous mole; very often someone who lives in a cooler country will not heed the warnings of too much sun in the ‘need’ to go home with a good tan. It is thought that the intermittent exposure to the sun can cause the melanomas, more so even than daily exposures over a longer period of time.
What else Does the Research say About Cancerous Moles?
Scientists have been trying to get to the bottom of what are the root causes for cancerous moles for many years now; however there is still an awful lot that they are not sure about. One thing that they all tend to agree on though, is that there are at least 5 genes that can have an influence on the risk of a person getting a melanoma; most people carry at least one of these genes. If a person is unlucky enough to carry all 5 of these genes then it is thought that they will be around 8 times more likely to develop a cancerous mole.