A skin mole is a spot on the skin that is usually round or oval in shape. The skin mole can be small or large, and it may range in color from pink, brown, red, or black. The single skin mole is referred to in medical terms as a nevus. When one is discussing moles in the plural form, they are called nevi. Virtually everyone has at least a few moles. Statistically one will find between 10-50 moles on the body. The skin mole can occur on any part of the body.
Most moles are simply the result of a harmless proliferation of the pigment cells within the deeper layer of the skin.
We are all born with all the moles we will ever have. Many of them are not visible at birth but will darken as one ages. A skin mole is called by a collection of cells named melanocytes . These are present throughout the skin and are a part of skin pigmentation. When melanocytes occur in cluster formations they result in the eventual appearance of a skin mole.
A skin mole may be flat or it may be raised. Some will sprout a few hairs, which is normal. Unsightly moles can be removed. Usually, since the skin mole is so common, people do not have one removed unless the mole is quite large. A skin mole can be removed using several different methods, and depending on the size of the mole, may result in some scarring.
Common methods of removing a skin mole are surgical, either standard or laser, and through depositing acid on the mole to burn away the tissue. Surgical removal of a skin mole may be conducted in three ways.
The surgeon can remove the visible layers of the mole with a scalpel, and then dig out the remaining melanocytes with the scalpel. He or she may also use a scalpel to take off the top layer, and then use an electric needle to destroy the tissue beneath the surface. A procedure called cryosurgery applies liquid nitrogen to the mole, which essentially freezes off the mole. Laser surgery uses directed laser pulses to destroy the skin mole. Cryosurgery and Laser surgery tend to result in minimal scarring, but the size of the mole influences eventual scarring from any of the procedures.
Over the counter herbal mixtures and acids may also be used to remove a skin mole. These may result in more scarring, and some of the claims of herbal preparations are dubious. It is also important to be certain that the mole you are removing is a regular mole and not skin cancer, since these preparations will probably not remove all layers of the mole.
Who is at risk?The presence of moles will not cause you serious problems. But large numbers, more than 25, are an indication of susceptibility to melanoma. So you should take great care about exposure to sunlight.
If there is a family history of malignant melanoma, you should be particularly vigilant about changing moles.
What are the symptoms of malignancy?
- The mole is itchy and painful.
- Increased size or an increasingly irregular appearance, especially at the edges.
- A change in colour, particularly if the mole gets darker or becomes mottled.
- Spontaneously bleeding.
- Satellite pigmented lesions.
Your doctor will probably request information on recent changes to the mole along with a family history to assess your risk.
If only mild changes are found, your doctor will usually only need to take a clinical photograph of it. The mole's appearance may be reviewed in a later appointment.
But if your doctor is concerned you will be referred to a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist, who may perform an excision biopsy.
Good Advice Avoid unnecessary exposure to sunlight, particularly during the two hours on either side of midday when the sun’s rays are strongest, and avoid getting sunburn.
Keep covered up in sunlight and apply sunscreen on exposed skin.
Examine your moles regularly and get someone to check those you cannot see.