Moles, also called “nevi”, are pink to brown growths that can be flat or raised, and can appear anywhere on the skin. They are caused by an increase in the number melanocytes (pigment producing cells) in the skin which cluster together. Patients may start developing moles during early childhood and can continue to develop new lesions into their 30’s. The average adult may have 20-40 moles on their body. Most moles are harmless, but changes in shape, color or size may be indicative of cancerous changes and should be evaluated by a physician.
Congenital nevi are moles that are present at birth or appear during early childhood. These moles are usually benign and may gradually grow in size with an individual as they grow older. Large moles or moles that are changing may be at risk of becoming cancerous and should be evaluated.
Intradermal nevi are benign moles that commonly present as pink to skin colored bumps that can present anywhere on the skin. These moles are typically harmless and don’t require treatment unless they are irritated, itching or bleeding.
Dysplastic nevi are atypical moles that are larger than average, with color variation and irregular borders. These moles need to be followed for changes and may need to be biopsied due to increased risk of becoming cancerous. Patients with multiple atypical moles may be at increased risk of developing melanoma and may need routine skin checks at home and professionally by their doctor. The American Academy of Dermatology has developed the “ABCDEs of Melanoma” as a guideline to monitor moles:
- Asymmetry: Part of the mole is different from the other half in shape, size, and color.
- Border: The edges of the mole are uneven and irregular.
- Color: Mole with color variation or different colors
- Diameter: The mole is usually greater than 6mm in size or growing in diameter
- Evolving: A mole or lesion that is different from other moles on the body or changing in size, shape, and color.
Treatment of Moles
Suspicious or bothersome moles may be biopsied or removed in the office by a shave procedure in which a razor is used to shave off the lesion, or by surgical excision where the lesion is surgically excised and sutured. Shave removal is often appropriate for smaller lesions, whereas larger moles may require surgical excision. People who develop any suspicious lesions that are changing, growing, or not healing should consult a dermatologist for evaluation. Depending on the size, location, and presentation of the lesion, our physician can help determine the best treatment option for you.