Common Lumps & Bumps – Moles
What are they?
Moles, otherwise known as melanocytic naevi, are a common lesion seen on almost every part of the skin. They are formed by an accumulation of the skin’s pigment bearing cells (known as melanocytes). These accumulations may form within the epidermis or the deeper dermis of the skin. Based on their position within the skin’s layers, moles may either be flat or raised. They also vary in color from skin-toned to brown, black or even pink. Moles may be present from birth (congential) or develop later on in life (acquired). They may vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeteres in diameter. Most moles are circular or oval in shape, although occasionally they may have other configurations.
Why do I get them?
Moles are naturally occuring lesions that happen to almost everybody. The number of moles depends on your genes and exposure to sunlight or UV light. Generally darker skinned people tend to have fewer moles.
Are they dangerous?
Generally speaking, no. Moles for the large part are benign lesions. They may gradually get larger and darker with age and certain conditions such as pregnancy. Most people will note that moles tend to appear more in adolescence and gradually fade away with age.
However, there is a small chance that moles may turn cancerous and become melanomas. This is especially true in people with unusually large numbers of moles and fair skinned people. Common risk factors for malignancy are:
– fair skin
– history of severe, blistering sunburns
– excessive UV light exposure, inlcuding tanning beds
– having large numbers (>50) of moles
– unusually shaped moles
– family history of melanomas
– weakened immune systems e.g. organ transplant patients on medications, patients with HIV/AIDS
What should I do?
As stated earlier, most moles are harmless and need no further action. Occasionally, you may want to remove a mole,either for cosmetic reasons or because of discomfort: e.g. a mole situated along the neck crease may cause irriation when wearing chains. This can be easily done via a variety of techniques including shave biopsy or electrocautery.
Less commonly, moles may need to be removed or have a sampling of their tissue done for testing to rule out malignancy, or cancerous change. Signs that may indicate your mole is turning malignant are:
– rapid growth of a mole
– change in color
– sudden onset of new mole
– ulceration, bleeding from mole
– change in borders, acquiring an unusual shape
How do I remove a mole?
Mole removal is a quick and easy outpatient procedure that can be done in the clinic setting. Generally, if the mole is suspected of being malignant, it is best to do an excision biopsy, where the full cross-section of the skin bearing the mole is removed and sent for studies to ascertain the presence of cancerous cells.
If the mole is being removed for cosmetic purposes, a full excision biopsy may not be needed. Depending on the site and the configuration of the mole, it may be removed by a simple surgical excision, or flattened by shaving, laser cautery or radiofrequency ablation. Moles that bear hair may need to be completely removed by full biopsy so as to prevent recurrence of hair growth.
Regardless of technique, most moles can be removed with a simple locally infiltrated anaesthetic and the patient is usually well to return to work thereafter. If suturing is required, they may need a follow-up appointment for removal of stitches 10 to 14 days afterwards.
For mole removal, visit us at Our Clinics.
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