Moles are dark places on the skin that seem to pop out when they want to. On the upper lip or tops of the feet they are considered to be beauty marks. Most moles are harmless. They are barely raised and are round and uniform in color.

With the wider incidence of skin cancer due to overexposure to the harmful rays of the sun, people are taking a second look at their moles. A mole can be a warning sign that skin cancer is developing. A mole that you have looked at before may be changing and that can cause an alarm.

So how do you know if your mole is not just a mole? Here are a few things to check for.

* Shape – Most moles, no matter what their size are roundish in shape. When cancer may be suspected, these same shapes now have irregular edges.

* Size – Moles usually stay the same in size. If you detected it as a pinhole, it should stay a pinhole. When you notice that your mole seems to be getting bigger, that is a cause for further investigation.

* Color – This is a bit harder to see since moles contain a lot of melanin and are usually dark. People of different skin colors can have brown or even reddish moles that are normal. Changes in color throughout the surface of the mole could signify something more.

Moles are a fact of life. They usually develop as young adults but can continue to form at other stages of your life. Pregnancy is a big factor in mole production. Many women may notice them peppering their body during this time.

We don’t normally check our body for changes in moles. But, if you spend a lot of time in the sun or you used to without any protection, you may want to have a doctor check you out periodically, especially the surfaces of your body that you can’t see but could be harboring a dangerous mole.

If you experience any of the following signs or changes in your moles, talk to your doctor.

- Bleeding or other discharge from a mole
- It become painful or red around the mole
- The mole grows, changes shape or color
- It burns or becomes itchy

Regular skin exams by your dermatologist can give you peace of mind. Biopsies can be taken of suspicious moles for early detection of melanomas and a successful treatment.