What Makes Some Moles Melanoma?

Most moles are completely harmless, but some can develop into melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. 

So what is it that makes these moles different?

Researchers in Australia have carried our research to try to better understand the process by which a mole becomes cancerous.

Dr Mitchell Stark, one of the researchers at the University of Queensland, explained:

“In Australia, about half of all melanomas develop from a naevus, but most moles will never progress to become a melanoma.

“We are trying to determine what causes some naevi to change so that we can better predict or more accurately detect those which could become dangerous.

“This would help avoid unnecessary excisions of those lesions unlikely to pose a risk.”

The group of scientists analysed a series of samples and all had one of two key mutations which are known to be associated with melanoma. Dr Stark continues:

“We found that 85% of samples had a mutation on the gene known as BRAF, and the remaining samples had a mutation on the NRAS gene.

“When either of these genes are mutated it activates the signalling pathway known as MAPK, which is commonly active in melanomas.

“Clearly our samples were not melanomas, so additional genomic events need to occur before a mole becomes malignant.”

Therefore testing for these two gene mutations commonly associated with melanoma would be insufficient to determine whether a mole could turn cancerous.

Dr Stark said further research was underway to determine other genetic changes or factors that could trigger the development of melanoma from naevi.

Melanoma Factors

Studies have previously shown the number of naevi a person has is the strongest predictor of risk for melanoma, so the message remains to be vigilant for changing moles.

In addition, there is a known link to sun exposure.  Statistics say that 86% of melanoma cases are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Ongoing sun protection is essential but skin cancer can result many years after the exposure, so it is important to keep an eye out for any unusual skin lesions.

Mole Checking

Doctors at Cosmedics Skin Clinics warn their patients to always be vigilant for suspicious moles and to regularly check themselves and loved ones in a detailed ‘top to toe’ mole check, even in the more unusual areas such as the scalp, or under the soles of the feet.

Dr Ross Perry, a leading mole removal expert who is the Company’s founder and Medical Director, calls it the ‘ugly duckling sign’ and advises patients to seek medical attention as soon as possible to rule out skin cancer.

Mole Removal Clinics

Cosmedics Skin Clinics offer mole removal in London and Bristol with qualified and experienced doctors. Moles are removed using the latest surgical techniques including laser mole removal; with techniques designed to minimise scarring and make the procedure entirely painless.

For more information or to book a consultation, please complete the form on this web page or call 020 7386 0464.