Moles or nevi are common benign skin lesions. Most moles appear on the skin during childhood and adolescence. Common nevi are typically brown, round in shage, flat or slightly raised. Nevi may change and grow as a child grows. For adults, new moles and changes to existing moles can be a sign of melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer.
Nevi can appear anywhere on the skin, even on the palms, soles under your nails. Although nevi have a distinct look, they may not look alike. In a given individual, moles can differ in size, shape, or color. Moles can have hair. Some moles will change slowly over time, possibly even disappearing.
ABCDEs of Melanoma
If you see a mole or new spot on your skin that has any of the ABCDEs of melanoma, immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist. Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin.
A = Asymmetry. One half is unlike the other.
B = Border. An irregular, jagged, or poorly defined border.
C = Color. has shades of tan, brown, or black; sometimes white, red, or blue.
D = Diameter. The majority of melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, though they can be smaller.
E = Evolving. A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.
Atypical moles, also known as, Dysplastic nevi are considered to be pre-cancerous as melanoma can grow in an atypical mole. Atypical moles can appear different than the common mole. This type of mole can look like melanoma but there are not melanoma. Atypical moles or nevi are often larger than an eraser on the end of a pencil, oddly shaped or have more than 1 color.
How do dermatologists treat moles?
Most moles do not require treatment. A dermatologist will remove a mole that are troublesome (painful, irritated, rubs against clothing, etc.) and/or suspicious (could be skin cancer.)
A dermatologist can safely and easily remove a mole. A dermatologist will use one of these procedures:
- Surgical excision: The dermatologist cuts out the entire mole and stitches the skin closed if necessary.
- Surgical shave biopsy or removal: The dermatologist uses a surgical blade to remove the mole.
Your mole will be checked under a microscope by a specially-trained doctor to check for cancer cells. A cancerous mole or Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma can spread quickly to other parts of the body and can cause death. When found early, melanoma is highly treatable.
The type of treatment a patient receives depends on how deeply the melanoma has grown into the skin and whether the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body.