A mole (also known as nevus, singular, or nevi, plural) is a raised section of discolored skin that is usually harmless and may contain a hair or hairs.
A mole is one of the most common skin conditions and can occur anywhere on the body. Moles are made of a cluster of melanocytes, the cells that cause pigmentation of the skin, hence the darker color. Most moles appear during adolescence; however, some may not be noticed until later in life when events such as hormonal changes may cause the pigment to darken and the mole to become more visible.
What are the symptoms?
Moles can be either raised or flat and are generally less than ¼” in diameter. The surface of the mole can be smooth or wrinkled and some may contain hair. Though generally brown in color, moles may also appear tan, black, red or blue. As the body ages, moles may lighten in color, flat moles may become raised, and some moles may disappear. It is always a good idea to monitor any changes in a mole and bring them to the attention of a doctor.
Moles can be differentiated from other, more serious forms of skin aberrations if they do not change color, are more symmetrical in shape, and appear the same over time.
Who gets it?
Anyone can develop moles. Ten to 40 moles is a common range for most people; however, some people may develop over 100 moles. Factors that may influence the presence and quantity of moles are:
- Family history
- Sun exposure
- Hormonal changes (e.g., pregnancy)
There is no medical necessity for removing a mole. In the cases in which a mole causes irritation due to clothing or has cosmetic significance (for example, a prominent mole that appears on the face, neck or other visible area), your dermatologist may recommend one of the following outpatient treatment options:
Local surgical excision – Your dermatologist will cut out the mole and, depending on the size, close the resulting wound with stitches.
Surgical shave – Your doctor will use a sharp blade to remove the mole at the surface.