Moles are small pigmented lesions on the skin that may or may not have been present since birth. Moles come in all shapes and sizes, and can be brown, red, black or skin color. Most people have some moles (medically called “nevi”) and some people have many moles. Many people often refer to moles as “beauty marks” and others find them unsightly and want removal. There are many different ways to “remove” a mole depending on what type of mole it is. Some moles are precancerous but most are benign.
The number, size and type of moles vary from individuals since every one of us has unique physiology. Almost everyone has a few moles, and some people develop hundreds of moles. People with light skin have a propensity to develop more moles than patients with darker skin type, ranging from 10 to 40 moles on average.
The most important thing that a person should know about moles is that some moles can develop into a skin cancer called melanoma. This can occur near or inside an existing mole. Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer and people with many moles tend to have an increased risk of skin cancer. About 1 in 70 people in their lifetime will develop a melanoma.
Congenital Mole – congenital nevus is the type of mole that is present at birth. On average, about one in a hundred of people is born with one or more moles. The sizes of these moles can vary from small to large. Moles that are more than 20 centimeters wide are called giant congenital nevi and they have a tendency to carry a higher risk of melanoma. Giant moles can be treated with mole removal surgery.
Acquired Mole – after birth, a person can still grow moles, and these moles are referred to as acquired moles. People who acquire 50 – 100 moles may have a greater propensity of developing melanoma than people with fewer acquired moles.
Atypical Mole – these moles are bigger than normal moles and they have irregular shapes and various colors like brown, tan, pink or red. Often bigger than pencil erasers, atypical moles are also known as “dysplastic nevi.” People who develop these precancerous moles have a greater chance of developing melanoma and should frequently see dermatologists to consider mole removal.
If you have a mole that worries you or if a new one emerges and it looks unusual, seeking immediate dermatological attention is recommended. Not all moles pose threat of cancer but a professional evaluation by a dermatologist can make sure that they are OK.
There is a guide to determining if a mole is potentially precancerous on your own. It’s called the ABCDE’s of Melanoma Prevention. You should regularly performed skin self-exams can help you detect these changes. When looking for at your moles, to determine if it may be a melanoma, apply the ABCDE rule.
ABCDE’ s of Melanoma Detection
The letter “A” stands for ASYMMETRY; if one side of the mole is different than the other half, this may be a sign of concern.
The letter “B” stands for BORDER; an irregular border is a sign to see a dermatologist
The letter “C” stands for COLOR Variation; Normal moles are usually uniform in color
The letter “D” stands for DIAMETER; if your lesion is over 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser) then it may be necessary to have the mole evaluated by a dermatologist.
The letter “E stands for EVOLVING”; any mole that changes size, shape or color must be evaluated by a Board Certified dermatologist.
If you have any mole that meets the above criteria, you should make an appointment with a dermatologist. The dermatologist can also perform a biopsy on the mole and remove it to see if it is precancerous or malignant.
We recommend you have a total body skin exam with a dermatologist once a year to determine if you have any suspicious moles that may develop into a melanoma if left untreated.
Depending on the size and location of the mole, dermatologists may use different methods of mole removal.
Laser mole removal can be performed in select patient where the mole is determined beforehand to be benign.
Before it can be determined if your mole is appropriate for laser mole removal, you must first have it evaluated by a board certified dermatologist.