What is a mole?
A mole is a growth on the skin that is usually brown or black. Most commonly, moles appear in early childhood and during the first 20 years of a person’s life. However, some moles might not appear until later in life. By the time you reach adulthood, it is normal to have between 10 to 40 moles. Over time, moles can slowly change, but some moles may not change at all, while others will slowly disappear over time.
What causes a mole?
Moles occur when cells called melanocytes (the cell that makes pigment and gives skin its color) grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin.
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 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 our dermatology certified provider.
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:
- A: Asymmetry
If you draw an imaginary line through your mole and the two halves do not match, this could be a warning sign for melanoma.
- B: Border
The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped, notched, or irregular.
- C: Color
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.
- D: Diameter
Melanomas can be larger in diameter than a pencil eraser tip (6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
- E: Evolving
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.
What are the different types of moles?
Congenital nevi are moles that appear at birth. Congenital nevi occur in about 1 in 100 people. How are moles treated? After receiving a comprehensive skin exam by one of our providers, if the mole needs to be further evaluated under the microscope (or removed entirely), a biopsy (small tissue sample of the mole) will be performed and evaluated by a board certified dermatopathologist. If the mole is found to be atypical, your provider may remove the entire mole by cutting out the mole and a rim of normal skin around it, and stitch the wound closed.