A mole, or nevus (plural: nevi), is a common type of skin growth. They usually appear as small brown spots on the skin. Some moles are present already at birth and others are acquired as we age. Most are harmless, and they rarely become cancerous. However, monitoring moles and other skin abnormalities is important and helps to detect skin cancer.
Types of Moles
The typical mole is a small brown spot on the skin but can appear in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be shades of brown, black, red, and even blue. Moles can be smooth or wrinkled, flat or raised. Some even have hairs growing from them. Usually less than 6 millimeters, or a quarter of an inch, in diameter, most moles are oval or round. There are three main mole types.
· Acquired mole. This type of mole is developed later in life. Usually brown, acquired moles are typically the result of sun damage. These are round and do not change significantly with age. Brown moles can darken into black moles with age. These moles don’t necessarily turn into melanoma, but you should see your doctor if you notice significant changes in color.
· Atypical mole. These moles are often larger than a pencil eraser, have an irregular border, and are more than one color. Because melanoma can grow into an atypical mole, if you think you may have this type, see your doctor to get it checked out.
· Congenital moles. This type of mole is present at birth. Congenital moles can be flat and vary in color.
When determining if a mole is a cause for concern, use the ABCDE mnemonic.
· Asymmetry. One half of the mole does not match the other half.
· Border. The mole has an irregular or poorly-defined border.
· Color. The color varies from one mole to another, either in darkness or the color itself (red, black, brown, blue, etc.)
· Diameter. The mole is larger than a pencil eraser.
· Evolving. The mole changes in size, shape, color, or overall appearance.
You should check your skin once a month to monitor any changes, and see a dermatologist yearly for a skin checkup.
How Can Moles Be Removed?
You can have a mole removed if you don’t like the way it looks or feels. Getting rid of moles is a good idea if it becomes bothersome or impedes parts of daily life like dressing or shaving. Your dermatologist can help with mole removal. The best way to get rid of moles depends on many factors such as mole size, shape, and location on the body. If you have a mole you would like removed, talk to your doctor to determine the best method for removal.
First, your doctor will examine your mole. Your doctor might take a biopsy or remove it completely. The biopsy is sent to the lab to be examined for cancer. If it comes back positive, then the entire mole and the area around it should be removed to get rid of all the dangerous cells. This will usually result in a mole removal scar.
Removing moles is a simple procedure and can usually be done right in the office. There are a few different methods for removal:
· Surgical excision. Your doctor will numb the treatment area to lessen any discomfort. Using a scalpel or blade, your doctor will cut out the mole and part of the skin around it. The skin will be stitched closed
· Surgical shave. Done for smaller moles, your doctor will numb the treatment area and shave off the mole and some tissue underneath it. Stitches are usually not needed.
· Laser mole removal. Your doctor will numb the treatment area and direct a laser onto the mole. The laser destroys the mole tissue. This is a good option for small moles in hard-to-reach locations that do not appear atypical.
A mole removal treatment will usually leave some scarring, but these scars can be treated with chemical peels, laser treatments, and other methods to lessen their appearance. Dermatologists usually recommend a yearly skin checkup to make sure that none of your moles is a cause for concern. Skincare is important to your overall health, and moles are part of your skin. Although most moles don’t become cancerous, when they do, it can be very serious. It’s important to see your dermatologist regularly for checkups and let them know any concerns you have. Whether a mole is atypical or simply bothersome in your daily routine, your doctor can recommend the best course of action for you. Dr. Peyman Ghasri and Dr. Pedram Ghasri both recommend an annual skin exam to screen for any atypical moles and melanoma.