Moles, known medically as nevi, are common and appear in different forms and sizes of black or brown spots on the skin. Moles can form in any parts of the face, and body in groups or a singular mark. These irregularities can take place at birth or they can form over time. On average, a person has 10 to 40 moles.
Moles occur when cells that give colour to the skin, called Melanocytes, grow in a cluster instead of spreading throughout the skin. The moles may darken from exposure to the sun, during adulthood and during pregnancy.
Apart from affecting the appearance, the other major concern about moles is that Melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, can develop in or near a mole. Research has shown that certain types of moles have a higher risk of becoming cancerous.
Types of Moles:
a) Congenital Mole
Moles that exist from birth are known as congenital nevi, which occur in 1 out of 100 individuals and vary in size from small to large/giant. The large/giant congenital moles (more than 20cm) have been shown to have a higher risk of developing a Melanoma.
b) Atypical Mole
Also called dysplastic nevi, these moles are irregular in shape, larger and tend to have an uneven colour with mixtures of tan, brown, red and pink. Atypical Moles often run families and carry a higher risk of being cancerous.
c) Acquired Mole
Moles that appear after birth are called Acquired Moles and are usually benign, although those with more than 50 to 100 Acquired Moles have a greater risk of developing a Melanoma.
Sun exposure is the biggest contributing factor for all skin cancers, hence, staying away from direct sunlight and the application of sunscreen with SPF 30 and above helps minimize the risk. However, mole removal becomes necessary if it is a nuisance, the patient finds it unattractive or skin cancer is suspected.
The are several methods of mole removal available, depending on the characteristics of the mole. In Shave Excision, the dermatologist numbs the area with local anesthetics and uses a small blade to cut around and beneath the mole. This method is used for smaller moles and doesn't require sutures.
In Excisional Surgery, the dermatologist cuts out the mole and a little bit of the surrounding skin with a scalpel or punching device, and close the skin with sutures. Other mole removal methods include the use of Electrosurgery or Laser Treatment.