Moles, also called ‘nevus’ or ‘nevi’, are a type of skin growth that is very prevalent. Clusters of pigmented cells cause them to appear as small, dark brown spots on the skin. Moles are more common in childhood and adolescence. An average person has 10 to 40 moles, some of which may change or disappear over time.
What are moles?
Moles are skin growths that are usually brown or black in color. Moles can appear alone, or in bunches, on any part of the skin. The majority of moles appear throughout childhood and during the first 25 years of a person’s life. Moles normally alter slowly over time, getting elevated and/or changing color. Hairs might grow in the mole at times. Some moles may remain unchanged, while others may fade out over time. Most moles are harmless. Rarely, they become cancerous. Monitoring moles and other pigmented patches is an important step in detecting skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma.
What are the types of moles?
There are three types of moles:
- Common Nevi: A growth on your skin that’s small, pink, tan and brown. It also has a distinct edge.
- Congenital Nevi: These are moles on your skin that were identified when you were born.
- Dysplastic Nevi: These moles are oddly shaped and larger than a pencil eraser. The hue of dysplastic nevi is usually irregular, with dark brown centers and lighter, uneven edges. These moles are usually hereditary (inherited), and some people have more than 100 of them. These can be signs of skin cancer.
How does a mole look like?
A brown spot is the typical mole. However, moles come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes:
Color and texture – Moles come in a variety of colors, that include brown, tan, black, red, blue, and pink. They can be flat, elevated, wrinkled, or smooth. It’s also possible that they have hair growing out of them.
Shape – The majority of moles are oval or circular in shape.
Size – Moles are about the size of a pencil eraser, with a diameter of less than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters). Rarely, congenital nevi (birthmarks) can be larger, covering large regions of the face, chest, or limb.
Moles can appear on your scalp, armpits, under your nails, and between your fingers and toes. By the age of 50, many of these moles would have developed. Over time, moles may change appearance or fade completely. Adolescent and pregnancy hormone changes can cause moles to darken and grow in size.
When to see a doctor?
If you have a mole that bothers you, see a dermatologist at Apollo hospital. If the mole has altered, which could be a symptom of cancer, consult a doctor right once. The doctor can perform a biopsy, which involves removing a small bit of the mole and examining it under a microscope to determine whether it is cancerous.
This ABCDE guide can help you determine if a mole or a spot may indicate melanoma or other skin cancers:
- A is for asymmetrical shape. One half is unlike the other half.
- B is for border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders.
- C is for color. Look for growths that have changed color, have many colors or have uneven color.
- D is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters).
- E is for evolving. Watch for moles that change in size, shape, color or height, especially if part or all of a mole turns black. Moles may also evolve to develop new signs and symptoms, such as itchiness or bleeding.
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What are the causes of moles?
Melanocytes (skin cells) develop in clusters or clumps, resulting in moles. Melanocytes are cells that create melanin, the natural pigment that gives your skin its color. They are found all over your body.
Are there any risk factors associated with moles?
Melanoma is the most common problem associated with moles. Some people are more likely than others to have malignant moles that develop into melanoma. Melanoma is caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Being born with large moles: Large moles on an infant are those that are greater than 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Even a huge mole virtually never gets malignant before a child enters puberty.
- Having moles that are rare: Atypical (dysplastic) nevi are moles that are larger than a typical mole and have an irregular shape. They are usually passed down through generations.
- Having a large number of moles: The risk of melanoma is enhanced if you have more than 50 moles. The number of moles on your body can indicate cancer risk.
- A personal or family history: If you’ve had melanoma before, you’re more likely to have a cancerous mole. A genetic kind of melanoma is also linked to several types of atypical moles.
What are the treatment options available for moles?
Most moles that develop under the age of 50 does not require any treatment. However, there are two methods of mole treatment that a doctor suggests.
- Removal of mole
If the mole is cancerous, the doctor will remove it through surgery. If you have a mole that irritates when you shave, you might consider having it removed.
Mole removal is commonly done as an outpatient procedure and takes only a few minutes. The doctor will numb the region around the mole before removing it. It’s possible that the surgery will leave a permanent scar.
- Cosmetic care
If a person is self-conscious about a mole; he/she can disguise it with makeup. If there’s hair coming from a mole, consider trimming or plucking it close to the skin’s surface. Alternatively, discuss with your dermatologist the possibility of permanently removing the hair and the mole.
Preventing moles and melonomas
Learn where your moles are and what pattern they have. Examine your skin regularly for changes that could indicate melanoma. Self-exams should be done once a month, especially if you have melanoma in your family. Do a head-to-toe inspection with the use of mirrors, checking your scalp, palms and fingernails, armpits, chest, legs, and feet, including the soles and gaps between the toes. Consult your doctor at Apollo about your melanoma risk factors and whether you should get a professional skin exam on a regular basis.
Take care of your skin
Take steps to protect your skin against UV radiation. UV exposure has been related to an increased risk of melanoma. Children who have not been protected from the sun are more likely to get moles.
Some of the most common methods to protect your skin are:
- Avoid peak sun times
- Use sunscreen lotions
- Cover up your skin when you head out
- Avoid tanning beds and lamps.
A Note from Apollo Hospitals/Apollo Group
The best thing to do if you have a mole that isn’t causing you any concern is to leave it alone. However, if you don’t like how the mole affects your appearance or if it’s changing in size and shape, contact a dermatologist at Apollo to get it treated.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you know if a mole is cancerous?
The majority of moles have a symmetrical shape and a consistent color. They don’t change their appearance throughout time. Moles that have changed in appearance are potentially malignant and should be removed as soon as possible.
What are the things to be avoided after mole removal?
- Shaving in the vicinity of the site.
- Physical exertion.
- Using any irritants such as skin cleansers, peroxide, or other irritants.
- Water exposure for an extended period of time.
- Medications that have the potential to induce bleeding
What are the number of sessions required for a mole removal?
The procedure involves burning the mole off on the surface to protect the surrounding tissues and prevent scarring. Usually, it requires 1-3 sessions.