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Moles

Moles are a common type of skin growth that usually appear during childhood and adolescence, but which can continue developing into adulthood.

Overview

Moles are often small, dark brown spots that are caused by clusters of pigmented melanin cells, and they can change in appearance, or fade over time.

Often times, the body’s production of hormones can affect moles, causing them to increase in size or darken, so it is common to see the appearance or development of moles during puberty, and at other stages when hormones are especially active, for example in women who are pregnant or experiencing menopause.

Most people have 10-40 moles, and the majority of moles are harmless, but monitoring moles as well as any other marks on the skin is important, since some can develop into skin cancer.

Moles don’t usually cause other symptoms, and often people are more affected by the way they look than by any physical symptoms, which can negatively impact self-esteem.



If a mole is developing in a child, and is cause for concern based on appearance, it might be better to delay decisions about treatment until after puberty, as the scarring from removal might be more visible than the mole itself.



Symptoms of Moles

Moles typically present as a brown spot, but they can present with different characteristics, for example;  

  • Colour – Moles can be brown, tan, black, red, pink or even blue.
  • Texture - Moles might be smooth, or wrinkled; and flat or raised. They might or might not have hair that grows out of them and this hair may be pigmented differently to the rest of the hair on the body.
  • Shape - Moles can be oval or round, and usually they are symmetrical in appearance.
  • Size - Usually moles are smaller the size of a pencil eraser, but moles that present at birth can be much bigger, and may also be called a birthmark.

Most moles are harmless and can be left untreated. However, some moles may develop into skin cancer, and therefore it is important to check moles regularly. Any changes should be noted and discussed with the GP or a dermatologist.  

The British Association of Dermatologists (and others) recommends a simple ABCDE approach to identifying melanomas:

  • Asymmetry - Melanomas will normally differ from one side to the other
  • Border - Melanomas will normally have edges that are blurred and irregular
  • Colour - Melanomas will normally have a number of different colours
  • Diameter - Melanomas will normally be at least 6mm across
  • Expert - If in doubt, check it out! If your GP is concerned about your skin, make sure you are referred to a consultant dermatologist as soon as possible.

Causes of Moles

Moles develop when skin cells called melanocytes, which produce the pigment that give the skin its natural colour, grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin.

Moles may increase in size or darken with time, especially when hormones are very active, for example during puberty.

While moles are often associated with skin cancers, the majority of moles are not a sign of cancer. They should, however, be monitored for any changes.

Treatment of Moles Keratoses at Derma

While your GP can often diagnose many unusual moles or suspicious growths, we are more than happy to see patients who prefer to consult a private dermatology specialist. 

The appointment will begin with an examination of the skin (also called a skin check) followed by a discussion your medical history. If you are seeking to have your child’s moles assessed, the dermatologist may ask questions about the medical histories of the parents.

Most moles don’t need treatment, but in some cases where a mole is abnormal, it may be cause for further investigation, which might include blood tests or a biopsy. In many cases where the mole is abnormal, the safest thing to do is to remove the mole completely by excision, then send it for analysis (histopathology).

If the moles are not of concern, you then have the choice whether you want them removed by excision or cryotherapy for cosmetic reasons, or you would prefer to leave them.  Whilst we can normally remove the moles at the first appointment, you can also choose to go away and consider your options, and you will never feel under pressure to have surgery if you don't want to.

In patients who have many moles all over the body, it can be helpful to undergo mole mapping which will allow the dermatologist to track any changes over time.

Together with the dermatologist, you will be able to discuss how best to approach taking care of your moles, and if needed or desired, receive the latest and most effective treatments. The dermatologist will explain all potential side-effects, enabling you to select the best option for you, or for your child.

Whatever your needs, you can rest assured that Derma will provide the very best care with access to the latest research and treatment methods. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When looking at a mole, if it is changing shape, colour or size then you should get it checked out. They are usually brown or black, but some occasionally they can be pink or even white. If you have a mole that is changing and is different from your other moles, has irregular edges or is new in adulthood then it should be seen by a doctor.

When looking at a mole, if it is changing shape, colour or size then you should get it checked out. They are usually brown or black, but some occasionally they can be pink or even white. If you have a mole that is changing and is different from your other moles, has irregular edges or is new in adulthood then it should be seen by a doctor.

 

Some moles have tiny blood vessels within them and can therefore scab intermittently.  However, if your mole is changing colour or size and then develops a crust or scabs and feels tender then it should be reviewed by a doctor.  Not all scabbing is a sign of skin cancer but it should be reviewed.

If you pick a mole it is likely to bleed and become sore.  This should be temporary and shouldn’t need medical care.  If it continues to bleed then it may need to be reviewed.

Removal of a mole is a surgical procedure that must be carried out in a clinical, sterile setting and should not be performed at home.  There are risks of bleeding and infection in addition to the scarring that it will cause.  The mole will generally need to be analysed in a laboratory to rule out a skin cancer.

Related Specialists at Derma

The following dermatologists specialise in Moles

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