When a new mole appears, a brief panic sets through your mind as you consider the possibility of it being cancerous. Moles are tiny growths on the skin that develop when pigment cells, known as melanocytes cluster together, rather than being distributed across the skin. As years pass, moles can change, or even disappear. However, if you have a mole that changes color, size, or shape, you may want to have it checked out.

Most moles are between the size of a pencil tip and the size of an eraser, and are pink, brown, or tan in color. If your mole is dark, uneven in color, or asymmetrical, it can be a sign that it is cancerous. Other important signs to look for are dry skin around the surface of the mole, or the mole becoming hard or bumpy. If the mole begins to itch, bleed, or ooze, contact your doctor immediately.

Keep an eye on any new growths on skin that you may find, as they could be signs of skin cancer, such as Melanoma. Melanoma is characterized by the growth of pigment-producing cells, and is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. While Melanoma is highly curable if detected early, unchecked Melanoma can spread to the lymph nodes and internal organs, and some cases have resulted in death. If you have more than 50 moles, large moles, or atypical moles, you have substantially increase risk of developing melanoma or other forms of life-threatening skin cancers.

If you are unsure whether or not an atypical mole is dangerous, it’s best to go make an appointment with a dermatologist right away, especially if your family has a history of cancerous moles. While most growths on the skin turn out to be benign moles, it’s better to be safe than sorry.