Why does my mole itch? (and how to know if it’s melanoma)

Melanoma can have many different symptoms, one of which is itching. While an itchy mole is not always a sign of skin cancer, it is important to know what’s cause for worry. Below we go over some causes of an itchy mole and the warning signs you should be aware of.

Do a self-check on your skin health with the SkinVision app

1. Take a picture

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2. Analyze it

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3. Track your skin

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First things first: why do we itch at all?

While scientists and researchers still cannot definitively explain the evolutionary reason for itching (also known as pruritus), we do know that itching is typically a sign that something has aggravated or damaged an area of our skin. This can be a helpful tool to make us aware of harmful substances or agents that could be on our skin, such as mosquitos or poisonous plants. On an anatomical level, an itch is a result of the stimulation of nerve endings (also known as pruriceptors). This stimulation is often caused by inflammation, dryness or injury to the skin, mucous membranes or conjunctiva of the eye. An itch can also be caused by bodily diseases such as melanoma or liver disease.

Reasons for an itchy mole + warning signs:

As we mentioned above, an itchy mole isn’t always a sign of skin cancer. Itchy moles can be explained by a host of other factors including, new laundry detergents or beauty products, exposure to chemicals, a poorly placed bra strap or other external chemical or physical irritants, but they can also be caused by cancer cells irritating nerve endings. The key to knowing the difference is to look for other possible symptoms of skin cancer that will often present themselves alongside the itching.

Symptoms like:

·  The emergence of new moles
·  An increase in the size of the mole
·  Irregular borders on the mole
·  A change in color from brown to black
·  A mole with an irregular, rough or ulcerated surface
·  A mole that tends to bleed easily
·  A spot that looks different from others  
·  Any ulcer or broken down part of the skin that does not heal within 4 weeks
·  A spot that becomes raised over time

Did the itch come on suddenly?

If a mole suddenly becomes itchy and goes away over time, then it is probably a sign that it was caused by a minor trauma not skin cancer. Examine the mole and surrounding skin to see if the itching could be caused by any other factor, such as a rash or small cut. If not, or if you are still suspicious, get the mole checked out by your doctor right away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Other skin cancers that itch

According to studies, more than one-third of skin cancer lesions are itchy with fewer than 30 percent described as painful. Some patients report their lesions as both painful and itchy. If you experience multiple lesions that are itchy or painful as well as suspicious looking, this is a sign that you could have a non-melanoma skin cancer and should go to the doctor immediately.

There are three common types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. The types of skin cancer most associated with itching as a symptom are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, whereas melanoma lesions are least likely to be associated with any kind of painfulness or itchiness. Even though melanomas are less likely to itch than squamous or basal cell carcinomas, it is still a possible symptom and melanoma is far more deadly than non-melanoma skin cancers if left untreated. That’s why it’s always important to be on alert and watchful of any changes in your skin or moles. Don’t be alarmed by the first itch, but look out for the other symptoms mentioned above and contact your doctor or dermatologist if you still have cause for suspicion, especially if the itch doesn’t go away over time. 

Ready to do the first self-check on your skin?

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