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Ask Dr. Sears: Moles: The Facts

Q. My baby has a few moles on her back. Should I be worried?

A. Most infants have a couple of these "beauty marks," which usually appear on the back or chest and range in size from a pinpoint to a pencil eraser. Although moles are benign, too much sun exposure during infancy and childhood (especially for fair-skinned kids) can damage their ability to control pigment cells. This increases the risk that these cells will divide too rapidly, causing a mole to become malignant. In fact, one sunburn during childhood can double the risk of melanoma  -- the deadliest form of skin cancer  -- in adulthood.

To prevent this from happening and to stop new moles from developing, protect your child with a sunblock of at least SPF 15 (reapply every few hours), a broad-rimmed sun hat, and other protective clothing  -- especially in sunny climates. As your child grows, monitor the moles by photographing them so you can check for changes down the road. When you do so, follow the "ABCD" rule for suspicious signs that warrant a visit to a dermatologist:

  • Asymmetry:
  • One half of the mole doesn't match the other.
  • Border:
  • The edges are notched, blurry, or irregular. (Harmless moles usually have a smooth, round border.)
  • Color:
  • One mole has various shades  -- especially black, red, blue, or white. (Normal ones tend to have a uniform light- or dark-brown color.)

  • Diameter: eraser.

    Also, if you notice any change in a mole, have a doctor examine it.

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