- Moles, medically termed as Nevi, are common, small spots on the skin that can appear anywhere on the body.
- Most people develop 10 to 40 moles in their entire lifetime by the age of 50 years.
- Sometimes, few moles may progress towards cancer, and their removal becomes mandatory.
- Note any sudden changes in the appearance of a mole like associated itching, a sudden increase in size, etc. It is important to undergo an examination by a dermatologist to rule out any cancerous change.
What Is A Skin Mole?
Moles or melanocytic nevus is a common type of skin growth often caused by a cluster of pigmented cells. Moles are either perfectly flat or raised and have an oval or round shape. A typical mole is a brown spot. Otherwise, moles come in a variety of colours such as black, tan, red, blue, pink or skin-coloured. Some moles have hairs growing out of them.
Moles can appear anywhere on the body including areas such as the face, neck, scalp, armpits, genitals and even under the fingernails. They may occur alone or in groups. Most of the moles present during birth are big.
Types And Classification Of Moles:
We can classify moles into three basic types depending on their appearance, onset or development-
- Congenital moles – Also called congenital nevi these moles are present at birth. They usually occur in about one in 100 people. The chances of this type of mole to become cancerous depend on its size.
- Acquired moles – This term refers to those moles, which develop during early childhood or adulthood. Excessive sun exposure may cause a spurt in their appearance. This form of moles rarely turns into skin cancer.
- Atypical or irregular moles – Also known as dysplastic nevi, these moles are large, have an irregular shape and size with a dark brown centre. These spots are hereditary and may have more risk of developing cancerous changes.
- Cancerous moles or melanomas – These are highly irregular and asymmetrical moles that often evolve into skin cancer or melanoma over time.
What Causes Moles?
Here are some of the factors that cause moles:
- Genetics: The genes we inherit from our parents determine the presence, pattern and number of moles on our body. Ethnicity also determines the hereditary occurrence of moles; for instance, fair-skinned people are likely to have more moles than others. Genetic mutations are likely to be responsible for the formation of moles also reported by a research study in 2015. The genetic mutation of the BRAF gene was present in 78% of benign moles acquired due to heredity.
- Sun exposure: Sun exposure results in the development of more moles especially during childhood or early teen years. Moles also tend to become dark due to excessive sun exposure.
- Hormonal fluctuations: Hormonal changes during puberty or pregnancy also result in developing moles. Moles tend to become darker or bigger due to hormonal fluctuations in the body.
Why Do Moles Suddenly Appear?
Moles are usually darker than the skin colour and become more apparent due to prolonged sun exposure. Moles appear when skin cells called melanocytes start to grow in clusters instead of spreading throughout the skin. Melanocytes, which make the pigment ‘melanin’, are responsible for imparting skin its natural colour.
Common moles rarely turn into melanoma. A few dysplastic nevi may turn into melanoma especially if there occurs an apparent change in colour, shape, size or the feel of an existing mole. Since melanomas may appear as a new coloured area on the skin, one should check for any new moles on the body.
Diagnosis For Sudden Appearance Of Moles:
Irregular or abnormal moles can appear anywhere on the body and pose a risk of melanoma. The dermatologist will conduct primary skin analysis in the form of physical examination. He would then analyse your family history for developing irregular or changing moles to evaluate the causes before suggesting an appropriate treatment. He may advise a biopsy to check for melanoma.
Are You At Risk Of Developing Melanoma?
If you live in a tropical region and your skin suffers from excessive exposure to UV rays, then you have an increased risk of melanoma due to moles. Light-skinned people and women are prone to develop atypical moles. Any occurrence of a new mole or physical change in the appearance of moles on a woman’s lower leg or calf needs immediate medical evaluation. Having a family history of melanoma or the presence of more than 50 odd moles on one’s body increases our risk of skin cancer.
Tips To Look Out For Melanoma:
Here are the common changes to look for in a mole to identify the risk of melanoma:
- Any change in colour, shape, texture or height
- Any mole that is irregular in growth
- Any mole that becomes hard
- Any associated dryness or flaking
- Any associated itching
- Any visible oozing/bleeding
Prevention And Management Of Moles:
Since we cannot change our genes, so it is not possible to prevent all types of moles. Following these simple measures listed here can help in better management of moles –
Sun protection – It is essential to avoid sun exposure, especially during the peak hours of sunlight, between 10 am and 4 pm. Also, make it a habit to use sunscreen every time you step outdoors. Try to stay indoors or use sun-protective clothing items such as pants, long sleeves etc. Use a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to minimise the damaging effect of the UV rays.
- Watch out for changes – Examine your skin regularly for any change in size or colour of existing moles or look out for changes that may indicate melanoma especially if it runs in your family. Schedule a medical examination with your dermatologist on a routine basis.
- Avoid the use of tanning lamps – Tanning lamps emit UV rays and may pose an increased risk of skin cancer. So try to avoid using them.
Home Remedies For Moles:
Most moles are harmless, yet those indicating early melanoma cannot be treated using home remedies. Call for professional medical intervention and get appropriate treatment.
Here are some of the services we offer for mole removal.
- Laser treatment
- Topical medications
- Punch excision
READ MORE: Safe And Effective Mole Removal Treatment
Skin cancer or melanoma may appear as a regular mole, but it is a significant cause of concern. Therefore, seek a medical examination by a dermatologist if you notice an altered appearance of a mole for early detection of melanoma. Smaller moles are generally easier to remove than larger ones and barely leave scars.