What makes a mole?Our skin has cells called melanocytes. These cells cause us to become tan. Moles, which are benign spots on the skin formed by collecting "nevus cells," are a product of melanocytes. We all have moles, of which size and exact appearance are largely based on genetics, and the amount of time we spend in the sun.
Moles are highly unique. Where one person might develop moles that are pink or tan, another may have moles that are dark brown. Some moles can appear earlier in life, and others past the age of thirty. Moles may also change over time, and be affected by chemical fluctuations in the body such as during puberty or pregnancy.
Assessing dangerMost of the time, moles are non-cancerous lesions. Dermatologists recommend getting to know your specific type of moles by examining your skin on a monthly basis. In doing so, any changes can be quickly noticed and further assessed by a professional. Changes in size unrelated to puberty or pregnancy should be evaluated, as should change in color, shape, or texture. Should a mole become itchy, painful, or bleed, professional examination should be scheduled.
Irritation and cancer riskSome people develop moles in areas where irritation can occur. For instance, a mole on the face or the leg might get nicked while shaving. Though a mole persistently "injured" in such a way does not increase the risk of skin cancer, some people do choose to have these moles removed for the sake of comfort.
Increased risk is more often associated with genetic predisposition.
Checking moles for abnormalityA mole is a spot of pigment on the skin, such as a birthmark. Typically, moles are considered benign and harmless, and may be removed through surgical excision or laser treatment when necessary. Much of the time, moles are simply darker pigmented spots of skin. There are also dysplastic nevi, which are benign moles that look very similar to melanoma. These unusual moles do warrant close attention with monthly checks as well as regular professional evaluation, because they are linked to a significantly increased risk of melanoma.
There is a simple guide that practitioners use to assess moles. These factors should be considered during self-examinations as well:
- Moles should be symmetrical, matching on both sides.Border
- The line around a mole should be clear and uniform.Color
- Moles may be brown, black, or fleshy in color, but should be only one color.
Even small moles can be malignant, but moles larger than the size of a pencil eraser should be professionally evaluated.
Immediate assessment is recommended for any mole that has changed.
Handling abnormality in a moleExperiencing changes in a mole, or a concerning new mole, can be a bit frightening. A mole that is found to be abnormal is typically removed in a simple in-office procedure, and examined through a microscopic lens. Depending on the size of the mole removed, stitches may be needed.
Moles can also be removed for aesthetic reasons, although this form of removal may not be covered by insurance. After removal, a mole might grow back over time, requiring a second removal treatment.
At Center for Dermatology and Cosmetic Laser Surgery, we can assess and remove moles that concern you. We have a very advanced tracking system for moles that we use during routine skin checks, and are increasingly using dermoscopy (the use of a specialized lens to view the internal features of a mole) in following moles. Contact us for your visit today.
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I had a very good experience with Dr. Selkin and the medical staff. Dr. Selkin was very personable and knowledgeable about my condition. I would definitely recommend him for dermatology needs.
~Sandy M. Read More