Just about everyone has at least a few moles. Most moles develop in early adulthood over the first 30 years of a person’s life. They are common — the average person has between 10 and 40 moles. Most moles are harmless, but some, called dysplastic moles, are precursor lesions of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It’s important to watch for changes in moles, especially if you have a family history of melanoma. Our certified dermatologists can remove moles for cosmetic reasons or when they are potentially dangerous.
WHAT CAUSES MOLES?
Moles develop when melanocyte cells (responsible for skin color) grow in clusters rather than being spread across the skin. Moles can grow anywhere on the skin and are usually brown or black. Thanks to their relationship with skin pigment, some moles darken with sun exposure, during the hormonal teenage years, and during pregnancy. Over time they change. Some develop hairs, others will become more raised, and others may change color.
Most moles are harmless, but when a mole changes color, height, size, or shape, that’s when you should see your dermatologist.
HOW ARE MOLES REMOVED?
Most moles don’t require any treatment. But they may be cosmetically unappealing or uncomfortable when they rub on your clothing, and you may want the mole surgically removed. Obviously, moles that are showing signs of possible melanoma need to be removed and examined.
Removing a mole takes just a few minutes. Generally, our providers remove moles in three ways:
Excision — Some moles can be shaved off with a blade. Other moles with cells under the skin will require a deeper incision to remove the entire mole and prevent it from returning. This may require a couple stitches to close.
Freezing — Liquid nitrogen can be sprayed or swabbed onto the mole. This freezes the mole’s cells and they die. The mole will peel off in a week or two.
Burning — An electric current that heats a wire can be used to burn off moles. Larger moles may take more than one treatment to fully remove them.
None of these methods is difficult, but the area will be numbed with local anesthetic prior to removing the mole.