Moles are a common type of growth on the skin. The medical term for moles is nevi. Moles often appear as small, dark brown spots and are caused by clusters of pigmented cells. Moles generally appear during childhood and adolescence and almost every adult has a few moles. Most people have 10 to 45 moles, almost all of which appear before age 40. Some moles may fade or disappear as you age. Most moles are harmless and rarely become cancerous. Monitoring moles and other pigmented patches is an important step in detecting skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma. If at any time you cut or irritate a mole, keep the area clean. If the area dose not heal, contact Huntington Dermatology.
You should not be overly worried about your moles. But you should know:
- A type of skin cancer, melanoma, can grow in or near a mole.
- Caught early and treated, melanoma can be cured.
- The first sign of melanoma is often a change to a mole — or a new mole on your skin.
The typical mole is a brown spot, but moles come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes:
- Moles can be brown, tan, black, red, blue or pink. They can be smooth, wrinkled, flat or raised. They may also have hair growing from them.
- Moles can vary in shape from oval to round.
- Moles are usually less than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters) in diameter or the size of a pencil eraser. Rarely, moles present at birth can be much bigger, covering wide areas of the face, torso or a limb.
This ABCDE guide can help you determine if a mole or a spot may be melanoma:
- 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.
Contacting Huntington dermatology and letting our dermatologist check your skin can help you determine if your moles are cancerous or not and what treatments are right for you. Our dermatologist can also show you how to examine your skin and tell you how often you should have your skin checked.
Moles in Children: What Parents Should Know
Moles on a young child’s skin are generally nothing to worry about. It is normal for new moles to appear during childhood and adolescence. Moles will grow as the child grows. Some moles will darken, and others will lighten. These changes are expected in children and seldom a sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can begin in a mole.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have a mole that:
- Is painful
- Itches or burns
- Oozes or bleeds
- Shows any of the ABCDE characteristics listed above
- Grows back after having been removed before
- Is new and you're over 30 years old
Huntington Dermatology’s dermatologist can identify your moles by visually inspecting your skin. You may choose to make a skin examination a regular part of your preventive medical care. Contact Huntington Dermatology about a schedule that's appropriate for you. During a skin exam, we will inspect your skin from head to toe. If one of our dermatologists suspects that a mole may be cancerous, he or she may take a tissue sample, or biopsy, and submit it for microscopic examination.
If your mole is cancerous, Huntington Dermatology will do a surgical procedure to remove it. If you have a mole in the beard area, you may want to have it removed because shaving over it repeatedly may cause irritation. You may also want to have moles removed from other parts of your body that are vulnerable to trauma and friction.
Mole removal takes only a short time and is usually done on an outpatient basis. The procedure may leave a permanent scar. Options for mole removal include:
- Surgical excision
- Surgical shave
If you notice that a mole has grown back, contact Huntington Dermatology promptly.