Moles are small brown or black growths that are on a person’s skin and they can be flat or raised. Most every person has a certain number of moles and these growths can change colors and even disappear as a person ages. Individuals have moles on their skin where the cells were not dispersed across the surface of the skin.
Instead, these cells developed in clumps and this process formed a mole. There are two classifications of moles, which are congenital nevi and dysplastic nevi. Congenital moles are on a baby’s skin at birth. Dysplastic moles are larger in size and they often have a nonuniform shape and a darker shade of brown in the center of the mole.
Although most moles are brown, some moles are red or pink. The shape of a mole can also vary, but they are commonly oval-shaped or circular. Individuals can have moles on any area of their body including the arms, legs, scalp, back and between the fingers.
Most moles do not cause any health concerns, but it is possible for a mole to become cancerous. Individuals should visit a doctor to have a mole examined if it becomes painful, itches or bleeds, as these are signs that the mole could be malignant.
Nevi, more commonly called moles or birthmarks, develop when melanocytes (cells in the skin that produce melanin, the natural pigment that colors skin) grow in clusters. There are many varieties of moles, and most are completely benign, though in rare cases they can become cancerous. About one in 100 people have moles at birth, but most appear during childhood and adolescence. Almost everyone has moles; most people have between 10 and 45. Moles commonly disappear or fade over time, but their typical lifespan is about 50 years.
Most moles appear at random with no significant environmental cause, but prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays can prompt their development or darkening. UV exposure is especially significant in the progression of cancerous moles. Moles can also become darker during pregnancy or puberty.
Unless a mole displays signs that it may be cancerous, there is no reason for individuals to have any type of treatment for their moles. Some people elect to have certain moles removed for cosmetic purposes or if the moles are bothersome.
Removing a mole is a simple procedure and a medical professional will either perform a surgical shave or a surgical excision. During a surgical shave, the mole is shaved off even with the surface of the skin. When a surgical excision is performed, the mole is cut out of the skin and the skin is stitched up. After removing a mole, the mole is normally sent to a laboratory and tested to determine if it is cancerous.
Ultraviolet radiation is the only environmental factor that significantly influences the development of moles, but even those careful to avoid it will likely still have some. Avoiding direct sunlight and tanning beds, and properly using sunscreen can help stop the formation of new moles or hinder the progression of existing ones.
Moles themselves are usually negligible aside from perhaps cosmetic concerns, but when they’re particularly large, numerous, or unusually shaped, it can indicate more serious problems such as skin cancer. Melanoma, the most common form of skin cancer, is highly curable if noticed early, so it’s critically important to monitor moles to prevent the progression of the more serious conditions they can indicate. Dermatologists use the acronym ABCDE when considering whether moles merit medical attention: Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolution. Consult a dermatologist if any moles are unusually shaped, oddly colored, larger than a pencil eraser, or noticeably change over time. Moles that fail the ABCDE test are called dysplastic or atypical; they are not necessarily cancerous, but have a significantly raised likelihood of this.