Moles

What is important to know about moles?

Most people think of moles as being a dark brown spot on the skin, however, moles may have varied appearances. Most moles initially appear brown in color but may change over time becoming lighter in tone. Others may darken after exposure to the sun. At times, these lesions may become raised and may grow hairs. Moles have different growth patterns presenting various sizes and shapes. They can be round, oval or irregular in shape. They may be flat or raised, large or small, mottled or evenly colored. Most moles appear in the first 20 years of life, others appear later. Some darkened spots on the skin are not moles. These include freckles which become darker during times of sun exposure, brown wart like growths that appear at middle age (seborrheic keratoses), and small gray-brown spots found on the wrists, hands, forearms, and face (lentigines or age spots). These are easily diagnosed by your dermatologist and are not cancerous. If you are concerned about the appearance of a mole or if you observe sudden changes in the same, you should consult a dermatologist. Studies show that specific types of moles pose a higher risk of developing into a form of skin cancer known as malignant melanoma.

What are the different types of moles?

  • Congenital nevi are moles that appear at birth. They may be more likely to develop into melanoma than those that appear later.
  • Atypical moles, otherwise known as dysplastic nevi tend to be hereditary and appear irregular in shape and larger in size than average. They usually have an uneven color with dark brown centers and lighter, uneven edges. These moles pose a greater than average chance of developing into malignant melanomas and should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist.
  • Flat moles are very common on many individuals, usually appearing on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and the genitals. These moles are rarely cancerous.

How are moles treated?

Many moles are noncancerous and are not a threat to the health of the individual. In this case, removal may be requested for cosmetic or comfort reasons. In other instances a biopsy may be indicated.If it is shown that the mole is a malignant lesion it will be removed by surgical excision.

More about moles:

  • Medical studies show that shaving over moles will not cause them to become cancerous
  • Hairs present in moles can either be clipped close to the skin's surface or removed by a dermatologist
  • Cosmetics designed to cover blemishes may be used to disguise visible moles

A discussion of the early warning signs of malignant melanoma can be found under Skin Cancer