Moles are a common type of skin growth. They often appear as small, dark brown spots and are caused by clusters of pigmented cells. Moles generally appear during childhood and adolescence. Most people have 10 to 40 moles, some of which may change in appearance or fade away over time.
Most moles are harmless, and rarely become cancerous. However, monitoring them and other pigmented patches is an important step in detecting skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma.
Unusual changes in moles should indicate making an appointment to see a dermatologist:
- One half is unlike the other half.
- Moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders.
- Growths that have changed color, have many colors or have uneven color.
- Look for new growth in a mole larger than 1/4 inch
- Watch for moles that change in size, shape, color or height, especially if any part of the mole turns black. Moles may also have other symptoms such as itchiness or bleeding.
Cancerous (malignant) moles vary greatly in appearance. Some may show all of the features listed above. Others may have only one or two. If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see us today.
If we suspect that a mole may be cancerous, we may take a tissue sample (biopsy) for microscopic examination. If your mole is cancerous, we will do a surgical procedure to remove it. In addition, if you have a mole that causes irritation when you shave, you may want to have it removed. Mole removal takes only a short time and is usually done during an office visit.