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What is Benign Melanoma?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Benign melanoma is a very confusing term for many people. Most hear the term melanoma and automatically assume skin cancer or malignant melanoma. It may help to understand that benign melanoma is simply another word for mole or nevi/nevus. Many people have lots of these on their skin, and while they represent the possibility of changing and becoming malignant, they may never do so.

Moles or benign melanoma examples represent clusters of pigment cells known as melanocytes. When these cells group together, they produce round or oval-shaped, brown, black or sometimes pink spots on the skin; color is usually even through the mole. These can be virtually no larger than the head of a pin, or they can be the size of a fingertip or greater.

Differences may also exist in the texture. Feeling a mole may be no different than feeling the rest of the skin, or alternately people might notice the mole is higher in level than the skin. These differences are considered normal. Other characteristics of this condition are that the mole is all one level, that it is symmetrical and that it doesn’t appear to be growing.

It’s important to understand definition of benign melanoma. This makes it possible to compare benign and malignant forms of melanoma. Especially when people have fair skin and many moles, they are at greater risk for this deadly form of skin cancer. One important feature of skin care is watching moles and the rest of the skin for changes suggesting a malignant melanoma might be present.

Unlike the benign melanoma, the borders of the malignant mole are characterized as being asymmetrical and their edges may not be smooth. The mole may also exhibit rapid growth. Malignant melanoma could be suspect if the mole keeps breaking open and bleeding, and it could have several colors instead of a single color. Any mole larger than a fingertip is usually suspect, though some people have very large moles that are clearly benign.

Should any of these signs occur in one or more moles the best thing to do is see a family doctor or dermatologist. They may take a sampling of the mole or complete remove the surface layers to test it for malignancy. Under many circumstances, tests fortunately come back with a diagnosis of benign melanoma. Many dermatologists recommend yearly exams for people who have a significant number of moles. This is a good way to determine if there have been changes throughout the year that would require testing.

Of course, another preventative for people is to be very careful about sun exposure. A benign melanoma may easily become a malignant melanoma when people don’t use sunscreen regularly and wear protective clothing in the sun. This skin cancer is absolutely linked to damage to the skin, as caused by sun exposure.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a TheHealthBoard contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By seag47 — On Jan 20, 2013

@healthy4life – It's important to keep a check on those spots, because any melanoma can become skin cancer over time. My dad found this out.

He had spent a lot of time outdoors farming in the days before anyone used sunscreen. So, by the time he was in his sixties, he had a lot of benign melanomas.

He visited a dermatologist who told him that some of them needed to be removed. The cancer was only on the surface, but had he not gone and gotten the melanomas removed, it could have become more serious.

By orangey03 — On Jan 19, 2013

I thought I might have a malignant melanoma on my skin, so I got my doctor to check it out. It was a slightly raised freckle with a rough texture growing right in front of my ear on my face.

It had definitely grown over a period of weeks, so even though it wasn't discolored and didn't have irregular edges, the doctor thought it would be best to remove it. She sent me to a plastic surgeon for this.

He numbed the area and then made small talk while he sliced away at my face. I could hear the scalpel cutting through my skin, but it was over with so quickly. I think the fact that he distracted me by talking made it easier.

It turned out to be a benign melanoma. I was glad to have it off my face, anyway, because who knows how big it would have become!

By healthy4life — On Jan 18, 2013

I have several benign melanomas on my skin. I have very fair skin, and any time that I go out in the sun, I either get new freckles or new moles.

This happens especially in summer. Even though I'm wearing sunscreen, my skin is still very vulnerable to the sun. After a couple of months spent mostly by the pool, my skin will have several new spots.

By croydon — On May 09, 2011

@bythewell - You're right, it's important to get moles tested. The methods for testing them are becoming less invasive now.

One of the most effective is a mole map, where specialist doctors monitor all your moles for cancer over time and try to catch it at an early stage if it appears.

A doctor might take a small sample of a mole for testing if it is suspicious.

Usually they won't need to and will be able to set your mind at rest immediately.

However, you should feel no hesitation in looking for a second opinion if you need one.

By bythewell — On May 08, 2011

It is especially important to use sun block in the southern hemisphere, as the ozone layer is thinner down here.

I've known at least three people who had skin cancer, so I'm very cautious. I've studied pictures of melanoma to make sure I know what to look for.

If you have suspicions about a mole, you should always insist on a test for it. My mother insisted, even when the doctor didn't want to give her one.

The mole turned out to be malignant, so it was lucky she was stubborn about it.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a TheHealthBoard contributor, Tricia...
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