What are Moles?
Moles are very common. Most people have between 10 and 40 moles on their body. They may be pink, tan, brown, or a color similar to the person’s normal skin tone. Moles can be flat or raised. Flat moles are called junctional nevi and raised moles are called compound nevi.
How Moles Form
Moles are usually round or oval and smaller than a pencil eraser. They may be present at birth or may appear later on—usually before age 40. People who have dark skin tend to have dark moles. Moles may darken during pregnancy or after sun exposure. Moles tend to fade away in older people.
Avoid sun exposure and use a sunscreen regularly to help prevent moles from developing. Everyone should perform a monthly skin self-exam. This is particularly important if you have many moles on your body. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you notice a new mole, a change in the size, shape or color of a mole, or find another suspicious skin lesion.
Most moles do not require treatment. A dermatologist will remove a mole that is:
- Bothersome (rubs against clothing, etc.)
- Unattractive to a patient
- Suspicious (could be skin cancer)
A dermatologist can usually remove a mole during an office visit. Most removals require only one office visit. Occasionally, a patient may need to return for a second visit.
Whether it's during one or two visits, 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. Your mole will also be looked at under a microscope by a specially trained doctor. This is done to check for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, your dermatologist will let you know.
- Surgical shave: The dermatologist uses a surgical blade to remove the mole. In most cases, a specially trained doctor will examine your mole under a microscope. If cancer cells are found, your dermatologist will let you know.