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Moles are a common skin condition in which a cluster of pigmented cells create a distinct skin growth. Most moles begin appearing during childhood and adolescence, and the average person has somewhere between 10 and 40 moles. The vast majority of these skin growths are harmless. In some circumstances, they can turn into skin cancer. Watching moles on a regular basis for changes in shape or color is an essential component of skin care and wellness.
Most moles present as brown spots on the skin but they can come in various colors. Signs of a mole include:
In rare cases, moles can take the form of congenital nevi, much larger moles that can cover areas of the torso, face or limbs.
When looking for abnormal moles, it is helpful to remember the ABCDE’s of abnormal moles:
If you have any concern regarding a mole, having it evaluated is usually a quick appointment with your provider. If the lesion looks concerning, it may be measured and recorded for monitoring or a biopsy may be performed for more definitive diagnosis. Older patients, people with a history of sunburns or tanning, those with a large number of moles, patients with fair skin/red hair and those with a family history of melanoma should have their moles checked regularly.
All skin contains melanocytes, cells that produce melanin and give your skin its particular color. When moles are present, these melanocytes have grown in clumps. Most moles are not harmful, but when they begin to change size, color or texture, they can be an indication that a more serious medical condition such as skin cancer is present. Having more moles that most people can correlate with a higher risk of developing melanoma.
Most moles are harmless but when they interfere with quality of life, patients can seek treatment. The most common way to treat a mole is to remove it via excision. Typically, this involves numbing the area and cutting the mole out along with a small portion of the healthy skin around it. This procedure can leave scarring or dips in the skin. Sometimes moles can grow back, in which case, a patient should consult with their doctor as soon as possible.