Moles are very common skin growths that occur when a cluster of melanocytes, skin cells that produce melanin or pigmentation, develops somewhere on the body. Although most moles are benign and pose no health risk, some may become dangerous and should be closely monitored.
Some moles can progress to Melanoma. Melanoma causes over 10,000 American deaths per year.
Types of Moles
Moles are categorized into three types: acquired, atypical, and congenital.
Congenital moles, or congenital nevi, are moles that are present at birth and can vary greatly in size, while acquired moles develop over the course of one’s lifetime and are typically harmless.
Atypical moles, or dysplastic nevi, tend to bear signs of melanoma, including large size, irregular shape and uneven coloring , so it is important to check them for cancerous cells.
Skin tags are another type of skin growth are small, flesh-colored and benign and may be removed for cosmetic reasons.
Skin Cancer and Moles
Melanoma, the type of skin cancer that results in the most fatalities, typically develops in or around abnormal moles. Additionally, other cancerous and pre-cancerous skin growths, such as actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, may be mistakenly categorized as moles when in fact they are potentially serious conditions that require treatment.
It is therefore important to perform mole self-exams and seek frequent professional checkups to have your moles examined, especially if you notice any of the following:
A for Asymmetry – Part of the mole looks different than the rest of the mole
B for Border irregularity – Moles with uneven or jagged borders
C for Color changes – Multi-colored or dark moles
D for Diameter – Large moles with a diameter greater than or equal to 1/4 inch (6 millimeters) the size of a pencil eraser
E for Evolving – Changes in the way a mole looks over time, or development of other symptoms like itchiness, oozing or bleeding
Moles with the above criteria can be checked with a diagnostic biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of skin tissue so that it may be viewed under a microscope to check for cancerous cells.
Moles that show precancerous changes can be surgically removed.
Other moles can be removed for cosmetic reasons.
Would you like to learn more about Moles, Skin Cancer prevention and early detection, and Mole Removal? Call us to schedule a consultation at Clovis Dermatology.