Most adults have moles, and these growths are typically harmless. However, many people choose to have moles removed for cosmetic reasons. Others may require an examination to rule out conditions such as melanoma. Whatever the case, the providers at West Sound Dermatology can help.
What are Moles?
Moles are a common type of benign skin growth. A majority of adults have at least one mole. You may also hear them referred to as “nevi.” A mole is a soft, small pigmented growth on the skin. They may be present at birth or develop over time. In less common cases, patients may develop atypical moles, which have the chance of developing into melanoma and should be removed.
What Causes Moles?
Moles are caused by a high concentration of melanocytes, or pigment-producing skin cells, found in a small area of the skin. This is why a mole is darker in color than the surrounding skin. Benign moles are believed to be genetic. Atypical or precancerous moles are typically the result of sun damage, resulting in abnormal growth of melanocytes.
Mole removal is not always necessary for your health, but can be chosen for cosmetic reasons if you choose. Typically, your provider will first numb the skin using a topical or local anesthetic. The mole is then removed using a small surgical tool. If you are having an atypical or suspicious mole removed, your provider may also remove a small margin of healthy skin. In any case, care is taken to create as little scarring as possible.
What causes moles to appear?
Moles are groups of cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes are also evenly distributed throughout your skin and give your skin its color. Moles typically appear during childhood and adolescence.
Can a mole get bigger and not be cancerous?
Moles are not necessarily cancerous if they are big. However, it’s always best to have your mole checked by a board-certified dermatologist if you notice any changes in size.
What's the difference between a mole and a beauty mark?
Some moles are referred to as beauty marks when they are in a more “fashionable” area like the face, neck, or decolletage.
What is a precancerous mole?
Precancerous moles are also known as atypical or dysplastic moles. They contain abnormal cells that may potentially turn into skin cancer, called malignant melanoma. They may look abnormal in color, shape, or size.
Do cancerous moles itch?
In rare cases, moles can itch if they are cancerous. They may also crust, bleed, or be painful.
What happens if a mole is cancerous?
If your dermatologist determines that your mole may be cancerous, they can perform a biopsy. If cancerous cells are present, this is called melanoma. Treatment of melanoma depends on how advanced it is and includes surgical removal and sometimes immunotherapy or chemotherapy.
How is a mole removed?
Moles can be removed with a biopsy procedure or surgical removal.
When should you worry about a mole?
If a mole changes in size, shape, or color, it’s important to see a board-certified dermatologist immediately.
When should a mole be checked?
It’s best to check your moles at home monthly to keep track of any changes. You should see a dermatologist for a professional skin check if you have lots of moles or if you notice any changing moles, you should also see a dermatologist if you have moles that are asymmetrical or have irregular borders or colors.