Moles are common. Just about every person has a few moles. Adults who have light skin often have more moles. (About 10-40 is normal.)
You should not be overly worried about your moles. But you should know:
- A type of skin cancer, melanoma, can grow in or near a mole.
- When caught early and treated, melanoma can be cured.
- The first sign of melanoma is often a change to a mole — or a new mole on your skin.
- Checking your skin can help you find melanoma early.
What does a mole look like?
A mole is often brown, but can be tan, black, red, pink, blue, skin-toned, or colorless, round, flat or slightly raised, and looks the same from month to month.
Your moles may not look alike. Even in the same person, moles can differ in size, shape, or color. Moles can have hair. Some moles will change slowly over time and even disappear by themselves
Moles can appear anywhere on the skin. Moles develop on the scalp, between the fingers and toes, on the soles and palms, and even under the nails.
How do dermatologists treat moles?
Most moles do not require treatment. A dermatologist will remove a mole that:
- Bothers a patient (rubs against clothing, etc.).
- A patient finds unattractive.
- Could be skin cancer.
A dermatologist can remove a mole during an office visit. A few moles will require a second visit. Whether it’s during 1 or 2 visits, a dermatologist can safely and easily remove a mole. A dermatologist will use 1 of these procedures:
- Surgical excision: The dermatologist cuts out the entire mole and stitches the skin closed. If the dermatologist suspects that the mole contains cancer, the dermatologist will send the mole to a lab. It will be examined under a microscope. This is called a biopsy.
- Surgical shave: The dermatologist uses a surgical blade to remove the mole.
Never try to shave off a mole at home.
Here’s why you should never try to shave off a mole at home:
- If the mole contains skin cancer, some of the cancer cells can stay in the skin — and even spread.
- You can disfigure your skin, causing a scar or other permanent reminder.
- You can cause an infection.
After a mole is removed, the skin will heal. If the mole grows back, immediately make another appointment to see your dermatologist. This is a sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
If you see a mole on your skin that is changing, itching, or bleeding, make an appointment to see a dermatologist, and if you are within the Philadelphia metropolitan area, be sure to call us here at Philadelphia Scientific Dermatology.