A mole is a colored spot on the outer layer of the skin. Moles are produced when cells called melanocytes cluster with tissue. Melanocytes are spread evenly all over your skin and when your skin is exposed to sun, they cause the area to tan.
Almost everyone has at least one mole. Whether hated for aesthetic reasons or worn proudly like Marilyn Monroe’s famous beauty mark, moles are more common than you may realize.
The average person has anywhere from 10 to 40 moles. Moles are not only brown. They can be the color of your skin, or different shades of pink, tan, or even dark blue. Hormonal change in puberty or during pregnancy can make moles darker or larger. Only about 2% of babies are born with moles. Moles can appear early in childhood. Some will appear later, usually until around age 20. The cause of moles are unknown, but atypical moles can be genetic and also be caused by sunlight.
To stay safe and catch skin cancer early should it develop, contact the dermatologists at West Dermatology to schedule an informative and helpful mole consultation. With offices in Hillcrest, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and other major southwest US cities, we offer numerous locations with neighborhood dermatology experts.
Have you ever noticed a new mole appear on your skin? At first it may be concerning, but most likely you have nothing to fear. Most moles are harmless. Often, moles begin as a flat spot and grow bigger and bumpier. Sometimes they will flatten over time, return to the color of your skin and disappear on their own.
Traits of A Normal Mole:
- Most moles are about 1/4 inch across, or about the size of a pencil eraser.
- Moles usually stay the same size and color, although some will fade away with age.
- Healthy moles have smooth edges.
- A regular mole is symmetrical – both sides are similar.
As long as your mole has those attributes, it is most likely normal and nothing to worry about. However, you should always double-check with your dermatologist if you are concerned, especially if it appears after age 20.
For more information about moles, visit WebMD.com.
Abnormal moles are sometimes a sign of melanoma. Melanoma is a cancer of the skin that is often caused by too much sun exposure or harmful UV rays in tanning beds.
- Over 73,000 Americans will be diagnosed with Melanoma in 2015.
- Melanoma is the most common cancer in young women.
- Melanoma is the leading cause of skin cancer-related deaths.
- Melanoma is highly curable with a 5-year survival rate exceeding 90%.
The ABCDE’s of Checking Your Mole(s)
If you have a family history of skin cancer or more than five moles, you have an increased risk of developing melanoma and it is especially important to do annual checks.
When you are checking yourself for moles, make sure to use a mirror in a well-lit room and look at all areas of your skin. Get someone else to check places that are harder to see, like your back.
If a mole appears, the most important thing to do is keep a close eye on it and make sure it doesn’t change in appearance. Use the alphabet to remember what an abnormal mole looks like.
- Asymmetry—If one half of the mole is drastically different than the other, it might be abnormal.
- Border—The edges of a normal mole are smooth. If the edges are ragged and uneven, it might need to be checked.
- Color—A normal mole will be generally the same color all over. If a mole is abnormal it may have patches of pink, white, or brown in it.
- Diameter—For the most part, moles should be smaller than the size of a pencil eraser. Anything larger should be checked by a dermatologist.
- Evolution—Any change to the mole in size, color, or shape could mean it’s abnormal.
Any other abnormalities on the surface of a mole such as swelling, oozing, or bleeding should also be reported to your doctor. Watch for any itchiness, tenderness, or pain as well.
If your mole is normal, there are no health reasons to remove it. It may even be a distinguishing mark of your personal style or beauty—think of Cindy Crawford or Marilyn Monroe.
However, there are a few reasons you might want to remove a benign mole.
- Aesthetics—If you feel like your mole is unattractive and hard to cover up.
- Comfort—Your moles is making you uncomfortable by rubbing against clothes or getting caught on jewelry.
- Peace of mind—Even if a mole is diagnosed as non-cancerous, it’s still perfectly okay to have it removed just to be sure.
Benign moles can be removed with a simple, in-office procedure.
The most effective way to eliminate cancerous moles is using MOHS surgery (chemosurgery). During MOHS surgery, affected tissue is removed one layer at a time under a local anesthetic. Each layer is immediately examined to determine if all the cancer cells have been removed, so there is minimal damage to healthy tissue. The surgeon will talk to you about reconstruction and repair afterward if necessary.
If you are interested in removing a mole, always work with a professional dermatologist in California. There are many “home remedies” that claim to easily take care of your mole, but many of these will cause infection, scarring, or worse. It is not worth trying to do it yourself, and dermatologists are covered by most insurance providers.
When In Doubt, Get Checked
If you have any concerns about your mole, contact your local West Dermatology office today. A skilled and experienced dermatologist is available to answer your questions and set up any treatment you may need. We have locations in Arizona, Nevada, and California.
Next, read about Psoriasis.