Is this cause for concern?
If you find yourself doing a double take, have no fear. It isn’t unusual for moles to disappear without a trace. It shouldn’t be concerning unless your doctor previously flagged the mole in question as problematic.
If your doctor had concerns about the mole, you should schedule an appointment to get the area checked. They can determine whether there’s reason to suspect an underlying cause or if there’s nothing to note.
Although moles of any kind can come and go, halo moles are known to fade away in a years-long process. The disappearing process begins when a pale, white ring appears around the mole. The mole then slowly fades away, leaving a lightly pigmented area of skin behind. Over time, the lightly colored skin will become more pigmented. It should eventually blend in with the surrounding skin.
Keep reading to learn more about what to watch for, how your skin is tested, and more.
What to watch for in moles
Run-of-the-mill moles can vary in appearance. For example, many are brown or black, but they can also appear tan, pink, or red. Some moles are perfectly round, whereas others are less symmetrical. And not all moles stick up from the skin. Some may be flat.
It’s important to take note of how your moles look so that you can determine whether they change in appearance over time.
Generally, moles grow and develop during your childhood and teen years. Most people develop 10 to 40 moles on their body by the time they reach adulthood. Moles that appear after this time should be monitored more closely for changes.
Any changes to a mole may be a sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Although a mole disappearing may not be cause for concern, you should see your doctor if the mole in question had any irregularity before it faded. This includes:
- changes in appearance
- feeling tender to the touch
You may find it helpful to use the “ABCDE” rule when monitoring changes. Under this guideline, you should see your doctor if there are changes in the mole’s characteristics. ABCDE refers to:
- Asymmetry, or if one side of the mole doesn’t match the other
- Diameter, particularly if the mole becomes larger than a pencil eraser
- Evolving size, shape, or color
When to see your doctor
If your mole showed any warning signs prior to its disappearance, schedule an appointment with your doctor. You should arrive with specific details about the changes to your skin.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and your medical history before examining the area. If diagnostic testing isn’t needed, the appointment should only take about 15 minutes.
If your doctor finds something suspicious
If your doctor thinks a mole or area of skin is suspect, they may recommend a biopsy. During this procedure, your doctor removes a small sample of skin in the affected area. Then, they review the sample under a microscope to determine if any malignant cells are present.
Your doctor may also choose to feel your lymph nodes as part of the exam. This is because cancer often spreads to nearby glands. Enlarged or tender lymph nodes may be a sign that your doctor needs to take a closer look.
In some cases, your doctor may choose to skip the biopsy and opt for a period of observation. They may take a photo of the mole or ask you to keep an eye on it until your next appointment. If further changes occur, they’ll move forward with testing.
What happens next
If your doctor doesn’t find anything malignant during your skin check, treatment isn’t necessary. You should still watch for any changes in the mole and return for your next scheduled check-up.
If the results of your biopsy indicate melanoma, your doctor will work with you to determine what comes next. This could mean a simple mole removal procedure in their office or further testing to determine the melanoma’s severity and spread.
If melanoma is diagnosed
What happens if I’m diagnosed with melanoma? What’s my outlook?
If diagnosed, you’ll receive a complete skin exam and physical. It might also be necessary to have surgery, called a sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB), to help stage the melanoma. Staging will tell the physician how deeply the cancer has grown into the skin. When melanoma spreads, it often goes to the nearest lymph node. Other tests that may be ordered include X-rays, blood work, and a CT scan.
Knowing how advanced your melanoma is will help your doctor determine your treatment plan and whether you see a team of medical specialists, including an oncologist (physician who specializes in cancer).
The goal of treatment is to remove all of the cancer. If the cancer is found early, surgery may be the only treatment needed. It can often be done by the physician who diagnosed you. They can do it during an office visit while you’re awake. If all of the cancer is removed, it may mean you’re cured.
If the melanoma has spread, your treatment plan may include more than one treatment, such as medication to shrink the tumor and surgery to remove the lymph nodes. This surgery is usually done in a hospital under anesthesia.
After treatment, it’s important to have regular check-ups. You should perform self-exams of your skin for the rest of your life.Cindy Cobb, DNP, APRNAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
How to protect your skin
Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays can decrease your risk of melanoma and other skin conditions. Try these tips:
- Opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF or 30 or more.
- Make sure you’re using one sunscreen formulated for facial coverage and another designed to protect the rest of your body. The skin on your face is much more sensitive, so a different level of protection is necessary.
- Apply sunscreen every morning, regardless of the weather or season. The sun’s rays still hit your skin even when it’s cloudy, raining, or bitingly cold.
- Ensure that you’ve applied liberal amounts of sunscreen to any moles.
- If you’re outdoors, take care to reapply sunscreen every two hours.
- Reapply sunscreen immediately after swimming or doing any high-intensity activities that cause you to sweat.