What is a mole?
A mole, or nevus, is a benign growth on the skin that is usually brown or skin-colored. Most commonly, these types of moles appear in early childhood and adolescence. However, some moles can appear later in life. Adults typically have between 10 to 40 moles, but some people are genetically predisposed to having 50 or more moles. Moles can appear anywhere on your body including your scalp, groin, and feet. Over time, moles can slowly change, but most moles will not change at all, or will slowly disappear over time.
What causes a mole?
Moles occur when cells called melanocytes (the cell that makes pigment and give skin its color) grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin.
What are the different types of moles?
Congenital nevi are types of moles that appear at birth and remain unchanged throughout a person’s life. Congenital nevi are fairly common and occur in about 1% of the population. These moles can seem very irregular and/or large, but are typically benign.
Atypical or dysplastic nevi are moles that contain atypical cells. These moles are considered precancerous because if left untreated, they have the potential to turn into melanoma. It is standard to rate the level of atypia from mild, to moderate, to severe. At the mild stage, the moles can just be monitored , but when severe, the mole should be completely removed with a surgical procedure.
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Is there something that you should look for when examining your moles?
Most moles are not harmful (they are benign). Moles that are concerning are those that look different than other existing moles or those that first appear after the age of 30. Moles may darken after exposure to the sun, during your teen years, and during pregnancy. If you notice changes in a mole, you should have one of our providers perform a comprehensive skin care evaluation. You should have your moles checked if they checked if they grow, change color, bleed, itch, appear scaly, or become painful.
When you examine your moles, pay special attention to areas of your skin that are often exposed to the sun, such as the hands, arms, chest, neck, face, and ears. If you see any signs of change in an existing mole, if you have a new mole, or if you want a mole to be removed for cosmetic reasons, please schedule an appointment with one of our providers.
If you draw an imaginary line through your mole and the two halves do not match, this could be a warning sign for melanoma.
The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped, notched, or irregular.
Having a variety of colors is another warning sign for melanoma. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.
Melanomas can be larger in diameter than a pencil eraser tip (6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. If you are concerned your mole is changing, please schedule an appointment to come see us right away for a skin check. Any change in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting can point to danger and should be taken seriously.
Knowing the ABCDE warning signs of melanoma can help you detect a potential melanoma. If one of your moles has any of the ABCDE warning signs, please have it checked immediately with one of our providers: