Moles (Pigmented Nevi)

One of the most common skin growths

Moles are non-cancerous round or oval skin growths that can appear all over the body. Known as “nevi” in medical terms, moles appear when skin cells that produce pigment bunch up and attach to surrounding tissue. 

Most people have at least 10 moles, according to the National Cancer Institute, though they appear more often in light-skinned than dark-skinned people. They can appear at any age, usually after 6 months and before 35 years.

Moles and skin cancer

Normal, non-cancerous moles may be light to dark brown and have a uniform color and borders. But if a mole begins to change in color, shape, or size, see a dermatologist to examine it. These changes could be an early sign of melanoma – a serious skin cancer. 

Use the ABCDE method to watch for abnormal moles that may be a sign of cancer:

  • Asymmetry: The mole is not round or oval, or it has an irregular shape.
  • Border: The mole’s borders are jagged, blended with surrounding skin, or lacking a distinct, smooth border.
  • Color: The mole is multicolored or has colors other than a shade of brown.
  • Diameter: The mole is wider or longer than a pencil eraser (about a quarter inch).
  • Evolving: The mole changes over time in size, color, or other characteristics. 

Should you have a mole removed?

If a mole is showing potential signs of skin cancer, it’s important to have a dermatologist examine it. The mole may need to be removed. We also can remove a mole if you don’t like its appearance. 

We use several methods to remove moles: 

  • Shaving: Using a razor, we cut the mole off the skin. A deeper cut may be needed if the mole has grown under the skin.  
  • Elliptical excision: In this surgical procedure, we remove the mole and surrounding tissue, then sew up the area with stitches.

The team at our Pigmented Lesions Clinic examines and removes moles with advanced therapy techniques, including laser therapies.

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