Moles are a very common type of growth on the skin. They most often first appear in childhood and adolescence. They may continue to appear up to about age 30.
Moles are caused when the cells that are responsible for pigment, or color, in the skin become clustered together instead of being spread out evenly. When these clusters of melanocytes are exposed to sun, they may darken. The most common types of moles include:
- Common moles are usually round or oval; have an even color of pink, brown or black; and smaller in diameter than ¼ inch, which is about the size of a pencil eraser.
- Dysplastic nevi (atypical moles) are unusual looking moles that resemble malignant melanoma. They may be larger than a ¼ inch, have an irregular shape, border or color. People with dysplastic nevi are at a higher risk of developing malignant melanoma in their lifetime and should be followed regularly by their dermatologist.
- Congenital nevi are moles that appear at birth. These type of moles are more likely to turn into melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, than are moles that appear after birth. Watch these moles for the ABCDE’s of melanoma.
Moles change over time. They may get bigger, change shape or color, or they may even disappear. Although most moles are harmless, some may change into pre-cancers or turn into skin cancer.
Treatment for Moles
Most moles don’t require treatment. But moles may be removed by the Midwest Dermatology team for:
- Cosmetic reasons, if a patient wants a mole removed.
- Practical reasons, if a mole rubs against clothing or jewelry.
- Medical reasons, if our dermatologists suspect a mole could be skin cancer.
Almost any mole can be successfully removed during a single visit to Midwest Dermatology. Our dermatologists can either shave off the surface of a raised mole, or actually cut away the entire mole and stitch up the skin. Afterward, Midwest Dermatology will test the mole tissue to check for skin cancer.
Melanoma is the most rare and serious form of skin cancer. It accounts for about 5 percent of all skin cancer cases, and that number has been rising steadily for the last 30 years.
It develops when the melanocytes, cells that produce color in the skin and are responsible for moles, start multiplying rapidly and develop into tumors. Some melanomas develop out of moles, and many cases are linked to heavy sun exposure – like very bad childhood sunburns.
Midwest Dermatology physicians treat melanoma with excisional surgery. Our dermatologists remove the cancerous tissue by surgically removing the cancer and surrounding tissue. The wound is closed with stitches. Advanced melanoma may also be treated with chemotherapy or radiation by other cancer specialists.
Unlike other skin cancers, melanoma can spread deep into the body and may affect other organs. It’s important to watch for the ABCDEs and contact Midwest Dermatology if you see a suspicious growth.
You should never try to remove a mole by yourself at home. While it seems simple, you may end up with an infection or a scar. Only dermatologists have the advanced training to know how to best remove a specific mole, and also to know if a mole may be cancerous.