National Geographic : 2011 May
PHOTO: MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES HEALTH Mark of Youth A sassy little mole like Marilyn Monroe's has long been associated with beauty. Now research at King's College London suggests another connection. People with more than a hundred moles may age more slowly than others, perhaps resulting in fewer wrinkles and a reduced risk of osteoporosis. The reason involves segments of DNA called telomeres, which may shrink over time. Having many moles indicates longer telomeres. This helps put off the moment when some cells are no longer able to divide and renew tissues. It may also make "moley" people---as much as 10 percent of Caucasians---prone to cancers, but the benefits can sometimes outweigh the risk, says lead scientist Veronique Bataille, a dermatologist. "I tell patients to be vigilant, but consider the positive side of having moles." ---A. R. Williams MOLE OR FRECKLE? A mole is a cluster of pigment-producing cells that appears as a well-defined dot and is sometimes raised. A freckle is a splotch of pigment, often a sign of sun damage.