It can be difficult to determine if a mole on your body is a warning sign for skin cancer. Some patients come into my office worried about red moles on their skin because they look suspicious.
Red moles are often not true moles but instead are cherry hemangiomas. These round, bright red or purple spots are made up of blood vessels and are 1–4 mm in size. A person can have many cherry hemangiomas all over his or her body. These lesions are benign and do not necessarily need to be removed, though many patients have them removed for cosmetic reasons. If raised, they can become bothersome, and if they are scraped, bumped, or injured, they may bleed or become painful.
Another group of red moles includes true moles, or intradermal melanocytic nevi. These moles are raised, have little pigment, and are often found on individuals with fair skin, light hair, and blue eyes. Intradermal melanocytic nevi can appear light pink in color, are symmetric, and don’t tend to change in appearance over the years. Because these moles are raised, they can be subjected to trauma as well.
Other harmless moles that may be regarded as “suspicious” are pyogenic granulomas. These rapidly growing lesions are softer than moles and bleed easily. They are typically removed with surgery, electrocautery, or laser technology.
If you are unsure about a mole, it is best to consult with a dermatologist. Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that could be mistaken for a red mole. Your dermatologist should examine any mole that changes over time. Use the ABCs of Melanoma Identification as a helpful guide when examining yourself or loved ones for skin cancer. In addition, basal cell cancer is a slow-growing and less-dangerous skin cancer that can appear as a red, pearly lesion.