Moles are small skin lesions that produce melanin, a pigment which gives skin its color. They’re usually black, brown or reddish-brown, oval-shaped or circular. Moles may be rough, flat, wrinkled, or raised. Many have hair protruding from them. Almost every adult has from 10-40 moles across their body known collectively as nevi, or nevus if discussing just one. Moles are often inherited and appear during the first 20 to 30 years of life. Dark skinned people generally have fewer moles than those with fair skin.

The physicians at The Dermatology Clinic know all moles are not the same. Some can be left alone if they’re not unsightly or cause embarrassment. Moles that grow or have irregular shape and color may require medical attention.

What Are the Different Mole Types?

There are generally five categories:

  • Atypical nevi are flat or bumpy with irregular edges. While often harmless, they indicate a higher risk of skin cancer called melanoma, especially if four or more are concentrated in one area. Also, be cautious if you’ve had a parent, brother, sister, or child diagnosed with melanoma. These moles should be examined and potentially biopsied by a dermatologist (skin doctor).
  • Halo nevi, as the name implies, have a white circular ring around the skin that has lost its color. When these moles eventually fade, the skin regains its color. They are not dangerous.
  • Dermal melanocytic nevi, which are typically brown, raised slightly off the skin, and often have hair growing from usually are not cancerous.
  • Junctional melanocytic nevi are the common moles that are round, flat, and brown.
  • Congenital moles which occur at birth. About one in 100 individuals are born with moles in varying sizes. Having a large birth mole increases the risk of developing melanoma.

Symptoms of Moles

Moles are typically painless and mostly harmless. But be vigilant about changes in their appearance. If an atypical mole slowly changes in size, shape, or color, promptly show it to a dermatologist. Irregularity and changes could signal melanoma. Generally, cancerous moles have a diameter greater than a pencil eraser when first diagnosed.

When Should Moles be Removed?

Mole removal involves a small surgical procedure recommended if melanoma is suspected or cannot be ruled out by visual inspection. Moles can also be removed if they are bothersome. Moles may get in the way when shaving or snag on clothes. There are two options: shave excision and excisional surgery. Shave excision uses a small blade to cut under and around the mole. Excisional surgery (or biopsy) uses a scalpel to cut out the mole and a surrounding margin of healthy skin. In both cases, numbing the surrounding skin is required. Shave excision requires no sutures, but excisional surgery does.

See Us When in Doubt

For most people, moles aren’t serious. But if your moles exhibit warning signs or there’s a family history of melanoma, contact The Dermatology Clinic for medical evaluation and treatment. A wide range of other skin-related issues are also remedied. Don’t delay.

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