What is a Mole?
A mole is formed when a group of pigment-producing skin cells called melanocytes become concentrated in one area, forming a cluster. Because of the high concentration of pigment-producing cells, this area will appear darker than the surrounding skin. Moles often react more dramatically to direct sunlight exposure, so you may notice that they darken significantly. Moles often darken noticeably during the teen years and during pregnancy.
What Causes Moles?
Moles are caused by a combination of genetics and exposure to direct sunlight. Because of this, moles can’t be completely prevented, but avoiding high amounts of direct sunlight can keep new ones from forming, at least to an extent.
Common Myths About Moles
There are a few myths about moles that are commonly circulated.
- All moles are cancerous. This is not true. In fact, most moles occur naturally and are completely harmless.
Picking at a mole makes it cancerous. This is also not true. It isn’t a good idea to pick at a mole, because the area may become infected, but it cannot become cancerous.
- Cancerous moles follow the ABCDE rule. This is only partially true. Most cancerous moles follow the ABCDE rule that is, they are asymmetrical with border irregularities, they are multi-colored, they are usually large (6mm or more in diameter), and they change over time. Not all cancerous moles follow these rules, however.
Common Mole Treatments
While some moles are indicators of skin cancer, most moles are harmless and don’t need to be removed. You may want to have a harmless mole removed, however, for cosmetic reasons. There are two common procedures for mole removal surgical excision and biopsy. Surgical excision is a minor surgery that involves cutting the entire mole away and stitching the area. Biopsy involves shaving the mole away. It should be noted that one should never shave off a mole at home. Should skin cancer exist, much of the cancer can remain and possibly spread; at home shaving can also lead to disfigurement and possible infection.
When Should I See a Doctor?
There are a few things to look for while trying to determine if a mole may be cancerous. Generally speaking, you can go by the ABCDE rule. ABCDE stands for Asymmetrical, Border irregularities, multi-Colored, Diameter, Evolving. Cancerous moles are often asymmetrical with irregular borders. The color is often patchy, and they are often large (6mm or more) in diameter. Finally, cancerous moles often change, or evolve.
Whether you want to remove a mole for medical or cosmetic reasons, TrueSkin Dermatology in Sandy, Utah is able to perform biopsies and remove potentially harmful moles safely and effectively. If you have any concerns about a mole or questions about mole removal and would like to have a skin examination, we welcome you to call our offices at 801-255-SKIN (7546).