3/1/12

When an Itching Mole Begins Bothering You

Read what a dermatologist says about itching moles.

If you’re concerned about an itching mole (could it be melanoma?), first make sure that the itching is coming from the actual lesion itself, rather than nearby skin. 
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell precisely where the itching is coming from.

With that said, assume that you have an itching mole. According to Dr. Alan Rockoff, a suddenly-itching mole probably means trauma to the little spot – rather than cancer or melanoma.

A woman complaining of an itching mole wrote in to medhelp.org. She says there is a tiny darker spot on an otherwise symmetrical, brown mole, and the mole had been there “forever.” However, it is located beneath where her bra strap normally lies.

A few days before she wrote in, the spot began feeling weird. When she touched it, it became sensitive, as though being poked with a little needle. 

She wanted to know if it’s possible to have an itching mole that was not melanoma or another form of cancer.

Dr. Rockoff is an MD of dermatology at the Rockoff Dermatology Center in Brookline, MA. He explains, ”When a mole starts to bother you suddenly, that invariably means not cancer, but minor trauma.  I'm sure that when you see the doctor, the dark spot -- if it's even still there --will be diagnosed as a small scab from the mole's rubbing on your bra.  The needle sensation is also almost certain to be from the rubbing. Just keep the mole covered so it doesn't run, and don't freak out -- just see the doctor for reassurance and you'll be fine!”

The patient described her problem in fine detail. But had she simply said, “I have an itching mole,” and said nothing more, this likely would have altered Dr. Rockoff’s response – because melanoma can indeed cause a mole to itch.

The patient is being smart by planning on seeing a doctor. And that’s exactly what you should do if a spot on your skin becomes worrisome. Some people are mole hypochondriacs and create needless anxiety.

On the other hand, around 10,000 Americans die every year from melanoma – and many would still be alive if they, too, were hypochondriacs – or, to put it another way, hyper-vigilant about skin surveillance for suspicious changes.

Melanoma is a ruthless cancer once it spreads. However, it is one of the most curable forms of cancer when caught early. With vigilant surveillance, the layperson can catch melanoma early.

Melanoma typically (though not all the time, but usually) is slow-growing. If you have moles in difficult to inspect areas such as your back, you can have a dermatologist inspect them every six months; this will provide you peace of mind and extra surveillance.

Just because your insurance won’t cover elective screening like this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in it.

If you keep scratching a mole, it is likely to continue itching, just like any other area of the skin that you keep scratching, since repeated scratching produces histamines that cause even more itching.
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