What are Moles?
Moles are common growths found on the skin, and while they may occasionally be present at birth, most appear as a result of genetic factors or sun exposure. They may also be referred to as a nevus or nevi for plural. Typically, adults have between 10-40 moles, although some individuals may have more or less. New moles may continue to develop until the age 40. Beyond 40, new moles are far less common. Moles may be flat or raised and are generally the size of a pencil eraser or smaller.
While most moles are harmless, it is important for patients to understand that, on rare occasions, moles can develop into Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. For this reason, it is important to conduct monthly self-skin checks and to receive annual skin examinations from a dermatologist. Any new mole that appears should be evaluated, as should those who meet any of the ABCDE criteria:
· A – Asymmetry – Is one half of the mole unlike the other?
· B – Border – Is the border of the mole irregular or poorly defined?
· C – Color – Are there multiple colors in the mole such as black, tan, and brown?
· D – Diameter – Is the mole larger than 6mm, or the eraser of a pencil? While some Melanomas may be smaller than this, most are larger at the time of diagnosis.
· E – Evolving – Do you have an “ugly duckling” mole? One that looks different from the rest? Is it changing in size, shape, or color?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, have your mole evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist.
If your dermatologist determines a mole to be abnormal, he or she will either perform a shave or punch biopsy or a surgical excision of the mole. This allows the mole to be examined under a microscope and determine if skin cancer is present.
· Shave biopsy – A small scalpel or curved razor blade is used to remove only a small portion of the skin for examination. Electrocautery may be used to heat the site of the shave and stop bleeding.
· Punch biopsy – A round knife similar to a cookie cutter is used to remove a small section of tissue. Larger punch biopsies may be closed with stitches, while most smaller ones will heal on their own.
· Surgical excision – Just as it sounds, surgical excision requires the removal of the lesion and some of the subcutaneous fat below with a scalpel. This technique is frequently used for suspected cases of Melanoma. The incision is closed with sutures.
Learn More about Moles
If you have one or more moles, particularly those that are exhibiting signs of change, it is imperative to have them evaluated by a board-certified Baton Rouge dermatologist. To schedule a consultation and treatment, contact our office and request an appointment in our Baton Rouge dermatology clinic or Lafayette dermatology clinic.