Moles are very common skin growths that occur when a cluster of melanocytes, skin cells that produce melanin or pigmentation, develops somewhere on the body. Although most moles are benign and pose no health risk, they can become dangerous and should be closely monitored.
Types of Moles
Moles are categorized into three types: acquired, atypical, and congenital.
Congenital moles, or congenital nevi, are moles that are present at birth and can vary greatly in size, while acquired moles develop over the course of one's lifetime and are typically harmless. Atypical moles, or dysplastic nevi, tend to bear signs of melanoma, including large size, irregular shape and uneven coloring , so it is important to check them for cancerous cells.
Skin tags are another type of skin growth are small, flesh-colored and benign and may be removed for cosmetic reasons.
Skin Cancer and Moles
Melanoma, the type of skin cancer that results in the most fatalities, typically develops in or around abnormal moles. Additionally, other cancerous and pre-cancerous skin growths, such as actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, may be mistakenly categorized as moles when in fact they are potentially serious conditions that require treatment.
It is therefore important to perform mole self-exams and seek frequent professional checkups to have your moles examined, especially if you notice a mole that is asymmetrical or large in diameter (greater than 1/4 inch) and exhibits an uneven or notched border, color inconsistencies or tendency to change in size, color or shape over time, as these can be signs of melanoma.
Additionally, any moles that bleed, crust or ooze and do not fully heal should be checked for skin cancer as well, which typically involves a diagnostic biopsy, or removal of a small amount of skin tissue so that it may be viewed under a microscope to check for cancerous cells.
Although some moles are considered aesthetically-pleasing and considered trademarks of beauty, or "beauty marks," in some actors and models, many people find their moles are unsightly and wish to have them removed for aesthetic reasons, even when signs of skin cancer are not present.
Common methods for mole removal include:
- Laser treatment for pigmented moles
- Electrocautery (superficial burning) for skin tags
- Cryosurgery (superficial freezing) for skin tags
- Excision (surgical cutting or shaving) for raised moles
If you have a mole removed and it grows back, seek additional treatment immediately.
Would you like to learn more about Mole Removal? Call 212-772-7242 to schedule a consultation at Sadick Dermatology.