Breast cancer can be referred to as a “silent killer.” It tends to grow and spread quickly without apparent symptoms.
This is why women need to be proactive about their health and get regular screenings. Although a lump or unusual breast changes can sometimes be noticed (if so, see a doctor as soon as possible to get it checked out), most cases are discovered through routine screenings.
Early detection is key to successful treatment and significantly increases the likelihood of a positive outcome.
Moles and Skin Cancer
Most moles are not cancerous. Common moles are a clustered growth of pigment cells. Most adults have between 10 and 40 common moles, also called nevi. They are usually found on areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, chest, and arms.
Moles can sometimes progress to become melanoma – the most common form of skin cancer. These can usually be removed safely before the cancerous cells spread.
The first indication of melanoma is usually a change in the appearance of a mole. The National Cancer Institute recommends the “ABCDE rule” to describe the early features of melanoma:
- Asymmetry. The shape is not symmetrical.
- Border. A ragged, notched, or blurred outline.
- Color. Unevenly colored. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. White, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
- Diameter. The size changes, typically increasing. It can be very small, but most are larger than 6 millimeters wide (about 1/4 inch wide).
- Evolving. The mole changes over the course of weeks or months.
If your moles have any of these signs, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Breast Cancer and Moles
The presence of moles on your breast area does not mean you have breast cancer. However, many moles (50+) may indicate a hormonal imbalance of estrogen and, therefore, an increased risk for developing breast cancer.
People with no moles appear to be less likely to develop breast cancer than people with many moles.
While moles are not guaranteed to develop breast cancer, it may be a sign that you should be more vigilant about getting routine screenings.
It is recommended that women aged 45 and up should get mammograms every year. If you have a family history of breast cancer, are experiencing other symptoms, or have many moles, your doctor may advise you to start screenings earlier or get them more frequently due to the increased risk factors.
Self-checks should also be performed monthly. Report any changes of your breast tissue to your doctor right away.