THE 411 ON MOLES
Moles are a mystery to people. Not the moles burrowing through your yard, but those showing up on your back or chest. They concern people, but most moles are nothing to worry about. Here’s some information on moles.
What are they?
A mole is a pigmented growth on the skin that occurs when melanocytes, or pigmented skin cells, develop in clusters. Moles are common and develop usually until a person reaches 40, and then they tend to begin to fade away.
The only moles to be concerned about are atypical, unusual in appearance or different from every other mole on your body. These moles are called dysplastic nevi and can develop into skin cancer if left untreated.
What a normal mole or a melanoma?
Melanoma is the form of skin cancer when the growth grows downward, eventually dropping cancerous cells into the bloodstream, where they can then lodge anywhere in the body. That’s why it’s important to catch melanoma early, before it begins growing downward. Moles and melanoma can be mistaken for each other. Here are the differences:
- Moles are one color, usually brown. They can also be pink, tan, black, red, blue, or skin-toned. A single melanoma has different colors within the single growth.
- Moles are usually round, while melanomas are irregular in shape with an asymmetrical border.
- Most moles change very slowly over time, often disappearing as a person moves past 40. Melanomas look different than every mole, changing size, shape, and color.
- Moles usually do not grow even to the size of a pencil eraser. Melanomas keep growing.
Treatment of moles
Most moles can be simply left to their business, but if they are bothersome (for instance, if a bra strap keeps hitting a mole), unattractive, or show signs of potential skin cancer we recommend taking them off. At Deschutes, we remove moles either with surgical excision (cutting them out) or surgical shaving, where we literally shave the mole off the skin.
Have a question about a mole? Call us at Deschutes Dermatology Center, (541) 330-0900.