A mole can be a charming facial feature, an unsightly distraction, or a cause for alarm. We can help you tell the difference.
Normal moles You may have normal moles (normal nevi) that differ in size, shape, and color. Some may have hair. They may change appearance slowly over time or even disappear entirely. Moles can appear anywhere on the skin: on your scalp, between your fingers and toes, on the soles of your feet or palms of your hands, even under your nails.
- Normal moles
- A single color. Brown is most common, but moles may be tan, black, red, pink, blue, skin tone, or even colorless.
- Flat or slightly raised
- Consistent in appearance from month to month
Atypical moles Also known as atypical nevi or dysplastic nevi, these moles may appear anywhere on the body— often on the torso, scalp, head, and neck but rarely on the face. They may look like melanoma but are not cancerous:
- Atypical Moles
- More than one color
- Asymmetrical shape
- Larger than 1/4 inch in diameter
Although benign, atypical moles indicate an increased risk of developing the skin cancer melanoma. You have a greater chance of developing melanoma at an early age if you have:
- Melanoma Risk Individuals
- Have four or more atypical moles
- A personal or immediate family history of melanoma
Atypical Mole Syndrome For some people, the number and characteristics of their moles make them at exceptionally high risk of developing melanoma. These patients have:
- 100 or more moles
- One or more moles 1/3 inch in diameter or larger
- One or more atypical moles
Not all moles need treatment. If you think a mole is unsightly or uncomfortable, or if we suspect the possibility of skin cancer, we can remove the mole in one of two ways:
- Two ways we remove moles:
- Surgical shave After numbing the area, the doctor uses a small blade to cut around and under the mole. This procedure is usually performed on smaller moles and does not require sutures.
- Surgical excision The doctor removes the mole and some surrounding tissue with a scalpel
or punch device, then closes the incision with sutures.
If a mole grows back it could be a sign of skin cancer. Make an appointment with us immediately.
Whether or not your moles put you in a high-risk category for skin cancer, you should practice responsible sun protection and early skin cancer detection techniques.
Annual cancer screening Have us perform a professional, full-body skin cancer screening at least once a year. Make your appointment now.
Monthly self-exams Examine your skin at least once a month. If you see a new, rapidly growing spot or a growth that is changing rapidly, itching, or bleeding for two weeks, call us immediately. Get a free self-exam worksheet.
Sun safety Protect your skin from the sun:
- Sun Protection Tips
- Stay out of the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Apply broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 35 or higher to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 35 or higher. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or heavy sweating.
- Do not burn, tan, or use tanning booths.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Use sunscreen on babies over the age of six months.
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