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.
Symptoms of Moles
A typical mole appears as a brown spot, but moles can also come as tan, red, black, blue, or pink. More so, moles also vary when it comes to texture, wherein some moles can feel smooth, while others appear wrinkled, raised, or flat. In some cases, moles can also have hairs growing from them.
Moles are usually less than one-fourth of an inch in diameter, and most of which have either a round or oval shape. However, certain moles like congenital moles can appear much larger and wider in scope, covering areas such as the face, torso, or limb, but it rarely occurs.
Causes of 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.
Although most moles are harmless, keeping an eye out for one’s moles and other pigmented spots is crucial to identify skin cancer or other illnesses. A lot of moles develop during old age, and some moles may change in appearance or fade away over time.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Moles as Indicators of 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.
Nevertheless, an ABCDE guide is provided to help one identify if a mole shows signs of Melanoma or other skin cancers. Note that cancerous moles may show all features listed, but some may only have at least one or two.
- Asymmetrical Shape – The two halves do not look alike.
- Border – Moles with irregular, scalloped, notched borders
- Colour – Moles that have a change in colour, possess multiple colourations, or have uneven colour
- Diameter – Moles that are larger than one-fourth of an inch, or about 6 millimetres.
- Evolution – Finally, monitor for any change in size, height, shape, surface, and colour. Watch for moles that turned black. Additionally, moles can also develop new signs and symptoms, which includes itchiness or bleeding, so it’s best to visit a doctor.
Mole Removal Treatment
The are several methods of mole removal available, depending on the characteristics of the mole.
a) Shave Excision
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.
b) Excisional Surgery
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.
c) Laser Surgery
Laser Surgery is the most common method of mole removal used by various clinics in Singapore. This method is best used for non-cancerous moles, as well as moles that are small, flat, and are black or brown, and those who are in more difficult areas to reach.
d) Cosmetic Mole Surgery
This method is best for the budget in removing any mole that disturbs you or which you find unattractive as it is located on the cheek and forehead. To achieve more confidence in your facial appearance, you can visit some clinics in Singapore for this treatment.