Moles are typically round or oval, flat or slightly raised, smooth or rough, brown or black, or skin colored, but can be tan, red, black, pink, blue or colorless. Some moles contain hair, and some can fade or vanish on their own. Moles can develop anywhere on the body, even under the fingernails, between the fingers and toes, and on the scalp.
Moles are caused by pigmentation cells called melanocytes, that grow in clusters. Most are less than ¼ inch in size and appear by age 20. If desired, they can be removed with surgically removed.
When a person is born with a mole it is called a congenital mole. About 1 out of 100 people are born with a mole. They vary in size and very large congenital moles can develop into melanomas.
Birthmarks are colored marks present at birth or develop shortly after birth. They can exhibit many different colors. Pigmented birthmarks can be bluish, brown, black or blue gray in color. They may be smooth, flat, raised or wrinkled. Pigmented birthmarks vary in size and color. Most birthmarks require no treatment. However, when the birthmark changes color, size or texture and is painful, bleeds or itches it should be examined by a dermatologist.
Atypical moles (also called dysplastic moles)
Atypical moles are usually larger than a common mole, have an unusual shape and irregular borders, and contain more than one color. They can develop anywhere on the body but commonly appear on the trunk, scalp, head or neck.
Atypical moles can look like melanoma but while they aren’t melanoma, if a person has four or more atypical moles and a previous melanoma, or a first degree relative with melanoma, that person is at a higher risk of developing melanoma. However, most moles never turn into melanoma.
Do moles require treatment?
No treatment is needed unless the mole is suspicious for skin cancer, is unattractive or becomes irritated. Dr. Anna Chacon can safely remove your moles with a simple office procedure.
Surgical excision is a procedure performed under local anesthetic where the surgeon will cut out the entire mole and close the wound with stitches. Surgical shave is a procedure where Dr. Chacon will shave off the mole with a surgical blade. The excised mole will be sent to a lab for microscopic examination by a pathologist, to check for cancer cells. If cancer cells are present, Dr. Chacon will contact you.
After excision or shaving, if the mole grows back, it is imperative to return to Dr. Chacon for further examination as it could be a sign of melanoma.
Moles and Melanoma
Most moles are harmless and rarely cancerous. However, it’s important to know the ABCDEs listed below to detect Melanoma. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer where melanocytes (pigment cells) grow out of control. Monitoring moles and other skin growths is an important step in detecting skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma.
The ABCDE’s of moles and suspicious growths are warning signs that signal the development of potentially malignant changes. Use these signs when checking your skin at home. The goal is to help you recognize potential skin cancers early when they are most easily cured.
- Asymmetrical Shape. A hallmark of melanoma is a mole that changes from a symmetrical shape to an irregular shape.
- Borders. Notched, blurry or ragged borders are a sign of a precancerous growth or cancer.
- Color. A mole with more than a single color is suspicious. Color changes are a sign of trouble.
- Diameter. A mole or growth that is larger than a quarter of an inch in diameter suggests melanoma.
- Evolving. A mole that is evolving its shape, color, or size or that develops a new symptom like bleeding, itching or crusting is more likely to be dangerous.