Medical Dermatology


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Moles can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups. Their colors can range from light brown to red, blue, dark brown, gray and even black. They may be flat, slightly raised, smooth or rough and may contain dark hairs. Most moles are referred to as benign nevi and are harmless. The term dysplastic nevus refers to moles that contain abnormal or atypical cells. These dysplastic nevi have a greater potential for becoming a skin cancer. The life cycle of the average mole is about 50 years.

What Causes It?

Everyone has moles. Over time they usually enlarge and some may develop hairs. As time passes, moles can slowly become raised or change color. Some may not change at all.

What Can Be Done?

Anyone with a personal or family history of skin cancer should maintain a relationship with their dermatology practitioner for annual monitoring and removal of suspicious moles. It is important to recognize early warning signs such as changes in color, shape or size of a mole.

A mole is nothing to be concerned about but they should be monitored as changes may indicate a certain type of skin cancer. Changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole or the formation of a new mole sometimes indicate the presence of melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer. Melanoma is curable if caught early. Therefore, people should check their skin once a month for any changes.

A mole can appear individually anywhere on the body, except the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, or they may appear in clusters on areas of the body frequently exposed to the sun. Moles, in the absence of skin cancer, are not harmful or medically significant. Some people may wish to have them removed for cosmetic reasons.

A mole can be removed by excision and the skin closed with stitches. It can also be removed by excision and cauterized to stop any bleeding. With either method, a scar is possible. If a mole is deemed to be cancerous, it may be removed by Mohs surgery to ensure complete removal of the cancerous tissue.