Moles are common skin growths that appear in late childhood, although some may be present at birth. Moles may be seen anywhere on the body, but are most likely to appear on sun-exposed areas, such as the arms, legs, neck, and face. Most adults have about 10 to 40 common moles. Common moles are typically round or oval, smooth, and uniform in coloring, with a size smaller than a pencil eraser. They can appear in a variety of different colors, from pink to tan to brown. Lighter skinned individuals tend to have lighter colored moles than darker skinned individuals. Also known as nevi, they appear when pigment cells in the skin (melanocytes) develop in clusters. Common moles are usually raised from the surface in a dome shape, but they can also be flat against the skin. Common moles are normal and do not require medical treatment, expect for cosmetic reasons.
Atypical moles or dysplastic nevi are terms that describe moles whose appearance falls outside that of a common mole. The mole may be larger than a pencil eraser and/or its shape, color, texture, and border may be different. Atypical moles may contain a mixture of colors and the border may be irregular, so that it does not appear round or oval-shaped. Like common moles, dysplastic nevi are more likely to appear on sun-exposed areas of the body. The presence of an atypical mole does not always indicate a problem, especially if the mole remains consistent in appearance; however, if the mole has recently changed, it is important to make an appointment with your doctor to have it checked out.
When to See a Doctor
On rare occasions, moles may turn into cancerous growths known as melanoma. Left untreated, melanoma can be fatal. Researchers have noted that individuals who present with larger numbers of dysplastic nevi are more likely to develop melanoma. While it is rare for a mole to develop into skin cancer, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as you notice that a mole’s appearance has changed. It is very difficult to determine which moles are normal and which may become problematic, so it is important to work with a trained and experienced dermatologist. To determine if your mole requires medical treatment, contact one of our offices in NY, Long Island, or Westchester County.
In addition, if you have a large number of moles, we encourage you to undergo annual or bi-annual skin examinations. It can be very difficult to track the progress of moles on your entire body by yourself. During a skin examination, our dermatologist will record the appearance and location of moles on your body and track any changes over the years.
Moles may be removed from the body for medical or cosmetic reasons. Many people are bothered by the appearance of moles on prominent areas of their body, such as the face and neck. Moles may also be problematic if they occur in areas of friction, such as around a bra strap or waistband, where they can be easily irritated, bleed, and/or cause pain. Our dermatologists can safely and easily remove moles using only local anesthesia. When working with a skilled dermatologist, scarring from mole removal should be minimal.
Moles may also be removed to determine if they contain cancerous tissue. In this case, the doctor will remove your mole and send the tissue to a laboratory for examination. If the growth contains cancerous material, the doctor will help you determine the best way to treat the skin cancer so it causes no further problems. To learn more about mole removal in NJ, contact us today.