There is plenty of evidence to suggest that those who have numerous moles are more prone to skin cancer. This means that anyone with a large number of moles will most likely be aware of the dangers and will be vigilant in the sun.
However, what about those who only have a few moles? Are they still at risk?
Low mole count is no guarantee
These findings were presented at the American Academy of Dermatology Summer Academy by Caroline Kim MD of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and her colleagues.
Another interesting finding was that patients with less than 50 nevi were twice as likely to have developed advanced melanoma (stage III-IV) by the time of diagnosis. Further proof that low-risk traits can lead to a much more aggressive form of skin cancer.
So what do these results mean? If anything, the results show that those who have numerous moles are more likely to perform regular skin checks and to be aware of skin cancer symptoms.
They tend to use sunblock and avoid sun exposure where possible, they are also more likely to visit the doctor sooner as they are more aware of the potential dangers.
The New York study
New research shows that those who present low-risk characteristics (such as a low mole count) are actually more at risk of the deadliest form of skin cancer.
The study in New York examined 281 melanoma cases. 75% of the patients exhibited low-risk traits, specifically a low mole count of fewer than 50 nevi (moles).
Further research showed that the number of people who didn’t have dysplastic or atypical nevi (unusual moles that are similar to melanoma in appearance) was very high. Having no atypical nevi is another low-risk trait.
Not only were the most people with advanced melanomas in the study those who had low-risk characteristics, but they also exhibited more aggressive types of melanoma.
The melanomas were much thicker, they grew quickly and they were more likely to ulcerate.
The most important thing that we can take from the study is that every one of us has the potential to develop skin cancer or melanoma. Even people who exhibit low-risk characteristics. We all need to be aware of melanoma symptoms, to take care in the sun and to perform regular accurate skin checks.
If you have less than 50 moles on your body, you still carry a risk of skin cancer. This is especially true if you are fair-skinned, have a family history of melanoma, have suffered sun damage in the past or suffer from immunosuppression.
Because a high nevus count and the presence of atypical or dysplastic nevi are high-risk factors for melanoma, it appears that anyone who doesn’t display these signs is being neglected. They are not being screened for melanoma, and if melanoma does develop they will often assume that it is something else.
Skin checks & detection
So what can we do? You can never be too safe. Risk factors are of course important, but we cannot rely on them. If you have a low mole count, you still need to be careful in the sun. It is not only fair-skinned individuals who need to be aware, but even darker-skinned people can develop melanoma on the palms of their hands and the souls of their feet. Skin checks are immensely important.
Stay safe in the sun, always take precautions and avoid direct sunshine where possible especially in the countries that are near the equator.
The most effective way of surviving skin cancer is catching it early and seeking treatment immediately. Make sure that you are clued up on all the symptoms of melanoma and skin cancer. Perform regular skin checks and see your doctor as soon as you notice anything out of the ordinary. It is also vitally important that we share this information with those we love.
Educate your children about the dangers of skin cancer, the importance of sun safety and the necessity of skin checks. Talk to family members, friends, and colleagues. Too many people assume that they will never develop skin cancer because they fall into the low-risk category, which is far too dangerous a mistake to make.