Study Finds Fewer Moles Lead to Higher Risk in Melanoma


According to a new study from American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), people with fewer moles may be at higher risk for aggressive melanoma cancer than those with more moles.

Based on a chart of 281 melanoma skin cancer patients who visited a Boston hospital in 2013 and 2014, 89 patients had 50 or more moles, while the other 192 had fewer than 50 moles.

Researchers found the patients with fewer than 50 moles seem to have a thicker and more aggressive melanoma.

"It's important to educate yourself about skin cancer, no matter how many moles you have," said Caroline C. Kim, M.D., dermatologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston. "All skin cancers, including melanoma, are most treatable when they're detected early, so it's important to be aware of warning signs on your skin."

Differences Between Patients

According to Kim, patients with more than 50 moles are better informed of cancer awareness by their health care providers and not only check their skin more often, but also are more likely to visit dermatologists. With more frequent visits, these patients are able to detect melanoma at an earlier stage, when it is thinner and less aggressive.  

Patients with many moles versus those with few can also have biological differences impacting the variations in melanoma aggression between the two groups. There can also be differences in immune systems affecting how many moles patients have and they type of melanoma they develop, explained Kim.

“We already know that melanomas are not all the same genetically,” added Kim. “It’s possible that there are different pathways that drive melanoma in these two patient groups, resulting in different degrees of aggressiveness. If patients with fewer moles are more prone to aggressive melanoma, then we need to make sure that they are also being educated and screened, in addition to patients with many moles.”

Detect Melanoma Quicker

AAD recommends to be alert and to check skin for suspicious spots. Examining oneself for signs of skin cancer regularly and bringing suspicious spots to a dermatologist’s attention is vital, explained Kim.

“Everyone needs to be alert for melanoma, whether they have many moles or just a few," she added.

To know what to look for in self-exams for Melanoma, learn about the ABCDEs of melanoma.

More in Physiology