What is a Mole?
Moles are formed by pigment producing cells called melanocytes located in the upper layers of the skin. Moles range in color from light tan to a dark brown color and can be raised or flat. They can appear at anytime, although most moles show up in the first three decades of life. High amounts of sun exposure or use of tanning beds can cause people to have significantly higher number of moles. Most people have at least a few moles, but some may develop hundreds of them.
What to Look for in Moles
When looking at your moles, use the following ABCDE mnemonic to identify features concerning for melanoma:
- B-border irregularity
- C-color variation
- D-diameter >6mm
- E-evolving (enlarging, color changes)
Mole Evaluation and Removal
Although it is possible for some moles to develop into a melanoma, fortunately the vast majority are completely benign and don’t ever need to be cut out. Seeing a skilled dermatologist who is properly trained to evaluate your moles is essential for detecting melanoma. During your visit, your moles will be evaluated based on features such as size, shape, and color. In addition to their appearance, it is important to know a history of your moles (How long have they been there? Are they changing in appearance?, etc.)
If your provider is concerned about the possibility of melanoma, the mole can be removed and tested for signs of cancer. This procedure is usually done at the time of your visit and only takes a few minutes to perform. Results are known in less than a week.
Patients often request that moles be removed primarily for cosmetic reasons. Depending on the size and location of a mole, different options may be considered for removal. Raised moles are typically shaved off with a blade, while flat moles may need to be cut out and the skin sewn back together to achieve an optimal cosmetic result. We will be happy to discuss all the options to give you the best cosmetic result possible.
For more information on moles and melanoma, please see the Melanoma section of our website. If you have any concerns, please schedule an appointment right away.