Moles

Moles or nevus are areas of growth on the skin. Some moles are present since birth, while others develop through time. Most of the moles that develop in adulthood are related to exposure to the sun and effects on melanin production. 

In adults, new moles or developments on pre-existing moles can also be early signs of Melanoma, a skin disease that is highly treatable if identified in the early stages. Though most of the moles are benign, it is still advised to keep a keen eye for any development or changes in pre-existing moles, indicating cancerous growth.

Everything you should know about Moles


Moles are pretty common in adults, but at times might have a risk of being cancerous. A mole can be broadly categorized into three main types Moles.

Types of Moles and their severity

Congenital Moles

Since birth, the moles that are present are called Congenital Moles, which affect about 1 in every 100 babies (according to AOCD). These can be flat as well as tiny to be huge. Though these are not cancerous, having an increased-sized mole can raise the chance of it turning into Melanoma.

Acquired Moles

Acquired moles are the ones that people develop on their bodies with age. Most of these are brown or red and happen due to damage caused by the sun. These types of moles can also darken with age but not necessarily turn into Melanoma. However, having more than 50 of these on the skin might raise the risk of getting it.

Atypical Moles

Unlike the previous two, Atypical Moles have a higher chance of being malignant. Reports suggest that every 1 in 10 persons has at least one atypical mole. These moles have irregular and larger borders than compared to the former two. While melanomas are classified as darker moles, atypical nevus can come in various shades. Atypical moles can appear anywhere on the body but rarely appear on the face.

Moles are abnormal growths on the skin, which may or may not be malignant. It is said that moles are so common that every person, on average, has about 10 to 40 moles on their body. 

The factors that determine the mole numbers in a person are hereditary, meaning we have got these through our genes from parents having moles and the effect of sun exposure on the skin. Freckles, also known as ephelides in medical terms, and moles are generally coloured darker than the rest of the skin. Freckles generally happen due to the increment of the dark pigmentation called melanin and are flat rather than moles raised or maybe flat.

Moles are more common with people who are prone to have freckles. They frequently appear on people with lighter skin tones. Avoiding the sun or applying sunscreen really can avoid the appearance of some types of freckles and moles.

 

Most moles appear early in a person's life, and it is normal for a person to have an average of 30 to 40 moles on their body. Generally, moles that are malignant change over time in shape, size as well as colour. Malignant mole shows either some or all the above changes enabling the patient to identify earlier. It is an important aspect of keeping a self-check up on pre-existing moles and looking for possible growths. Moles appear and disappear through time, but if it does not, then the changes in its physical form may determine its nature.

The clustering or clumping of cells causes Moles into groups. Melanin, the pigment, is the natural colour that the skin has, produced by melanocytes distributed throughout the body. All moles are not cancerous, but certain complications in the growth can lead to Melanoma or other malignant skin diseases. 

Moles are pretty common and do not generally become cancerous until there is any sort of physical complications. Frequent tanning booths, which are booths using UV rays to apply artificial tanning on the skin, have a higher risk of getting moles that might be malignant. Professions demanding long hours in the sun or during its peak time can also lead to excessive moles and, in turn, skin cancer. People have delicate skin textures and are prone to get affected by radiation from the sun's UV rays.

 

Moles, which are abnormal growth on the skin, are moved for various reasons, malignant and benign. It is raised or flat, which are formed by the clustering of skin pigmenting cells called melanocytes. They can occur anywhere on the body and are found in both humans and animals.  It can only be removed surgically by a trained professional specializing in the same. The two ways by which these abnormal growths are:

  • Excision or Cutting

This process is where the surgeon numbs the area and makes the incision. The method of incision or cut would depend on the size and shape of the Mole. Then a specialized blade, a scalpel, is used to cut out the Mole and its borders. 

The amount of border removed depends on the nature of the Mole. If the Mole is a benign one, then a thinner border is cut out, while if it's malignant, then a wider border is carved out, ensuring optimal removal of the Mole's cancerous portions.

The stitches are then placed on the open wound. These stitches may vary in nature depending on their depth in the skin. Stitches that are placed on the surface have to be surgically removed later. The stitches deep within the skin are absorbed by the body with time and do not need to be removed.

  • Shave removal without stitches

The Mole is gently scraped and shaved off the skin, at times a little deeper than its origin, by a specially designed blade called a scalpel. This process is mainly done on smaller moles. After shaving, it is burned or cauterized in the affected area. The process is done via an external source that may be an electrical instrument or a laser and is treated with a solution to stop the bleeding.

The wound is then covered with a proper coating of bandages securing it from getting infected. Due to its methodology, this process does not require any form of stitches.

  • Post-Operative Treatment

A vital part of treating mole removal is post-operative care and treatment. Therefore, it is advised to apply petroleum jelly and a bandage on the wound at all times. 

The wound should be cleaned daily, once or twice, with water or hydrogen peroxide. After the wash, a thick coat of petroleum jelly should be applied and covered by a clean and sanitized bandage.

The wound is advised to be closed with bandages at times without fail to avoid infections on the wound. Any form of ingestion of Vitamin E in the body can also deteriorate the condition of the operated area rather thahealng it.

Moles, or nevi, are growths forming due to the clustering of pigmented cells and are harmless. However, if there is a new development of growth in adults or any physical transformation, there is a high chance that the Mole is becoming malignant. 

There are various ways to spot or identify a cancerous mole. But the most widely and commonly used method would be the one named the ABCDE rule of identification. They can be listed serially in the following points:

  • Asymmetry

Generally, moles are somewhat symmetrical. But in the case of a cancerous one, the moles are asymmetrical. This is because one half of the Mole looks different from the other half concerning its size and texture.

  • Border

Malignant moles have a border that looks scalloped, fuzzy or irregular rather than smooth and defined borders in common moles.

  • Colour

A mole is skin-coloured or tan coloured and may have a range up to dark brown. At the same time, a cancerous or malignant mole would have colours like black, red, tan and even blue.

  • Diameter

Common moles are generally small in size, roughly about the size of those erasers on top of a pencil. On the other hand, cancerous moles are more significant than 6 millimetres across, which is the maximum size of a common mole.

  •  Evolution

As most malignant moles go through physiological development through time, it is imperative to watch the evolution of the Mole. If it grows or develops rapidly, bloody or crusty, it confirms that it is malignant. Cancerous moles become sore and itchy with time and can be fatal if not treated on time.

Moles can occur in a person through genetics and getting over-exposed to the UV rays. Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to control our genes and prevent moles from occurring. However, there are a few preventive measures that people can take to avoid over-exposure to UV rays.

These primary preventive measure consists of:

  • A regular application of sunscreen with or over SPF 50
  • Using wide-brimmed hats of over 6 inches while venturing outdoors
  • Using clothing to protect any direct contact, in short, sun-protective clothing
  • Avoiding the peak times when the sun is at the top and is the strongest
  • Avoiding or decreasing venturing outdoors during sunlight hours
  • Avoid going to a tan booth or table for artificial tan

They are various ways in which people might be comfortable in identifying the skin. But the most favorable way and the ones with the most results have been listed below.

  • It is advised to perform a check-up every month. Better understanding can be obtained if done while the skin is wet, out of this self-checkup.
  • A full mirror gives more visibility while a hand mirror gives a closer look, thus making the identification better. Never be ashamed to ask for help from someone you are comfortable with for difficult areas such as the back portion of the body.
  • It is advised to have a specific pattern in the process of identification. This can decrease the chance of missing any development or new growth. It's better to start from the head and make your way to your legs. The hidden areas in the body, namely, areas between fingers and toes, underarms, soles of your feet, and the back of your knee, must also be examined thoroughly.
  • Scalp and neck are also susceptible to the growth of moles and thus should also be examined regularly.
  • Keeping track by taking notes or photographs is the best way to keep track of the development of the moles over time. This can also help in understanding the Mole when visiting the doctor.

As moles are known to go through physiological changes, many moles may entirely fall off through evolution. However, if the Mole that has fallen off has been a common benign mole, then the process is termed gradual.

A Mole can disappear due to various reasons like:

  • Natural Mole Evolution
  • Hormonal Changes
  • Trauma or Injury

However, many cancerous moles, where cancer has developed into another part by metastasis, may also fall off or vanish. But that does not necessarily state that the cancer is gone with it; instead, it has the possibility of still being active in the parts it spread.

Sometimes it is very hard to tell the difference between a mole and a Melanoma. The main criteria in identifying them is any form of physical change of the abnormal growth. Suppose any moles are larger than the rest with smudgy or irregular edges along with uneven colouration. In that case, it should be checked by a dermatologist, a doctor specializing in treating skin disorders, immediately. Any new formation of moles in adult life can also raise signs of cancer along with a changing mole. Identifying any of these characteristics in the abnormal growth, it is advised to take the help of a doctor.

Moles are defined as abnormal growth on the skin due to exposure to UV rays or through genes, which may or may not increase in size over time. On the other hand, Skin tags are small flaps of skin happening due to friction on the skin by various elements like clothing. Whereas Warts are rough and a patch of thick skin that is across a broader base.

Moles may also have some hair growth with time, along with appearing in sun-exposed areas. Skin tags and Warts have no growth of hair on them and appear in areas where friction is present, while the latter is found in areas of the body having thick skin. Skin tags are found on the surface of the skin, while moles and warts can be deep-rooted.

Skin tags and Warts are generally colourless unless the area has a colour distinction. While Moles can range in colour starting from Skin-colored, it varies in red, pink, brown and black over time or from the beginning. 

Melanoma is a mutation cell that grows out of control, making it malignant. Neither of these three is cancerous, to begin with, but become malignant if certain changes or developments start to occur around the abnormal growth. Following are the early signs of small benign growths developing into something dangerous, even leading to Melanoma, a type of skin cancer:

  • Atypical Moles

The colour of moles is generally tan or brown. If they seem to change colour to red or black, then it's an early indication of something serious other than just a harmless growth on the skin. Generally, moles do not develop fast. However, if a flat or a raised mole starts to change its regular shape, then it is on its way to something dangerous and might be fatal.

  • Elevated Bump or Wart Like Growth

Bumps, Blisters and Warts are pretty common on the skin in human beings. If a spot doesn't disappear within six weeks, then it is a sign of that spot being malignant and can lead to Melanoma. Skin cancer is completely curable if identified and treated in the early stages, which seems tough as most cancerous growth initially looks harmless.

  • Wart or Sore that Bleeds and Won't Heal 

People having warts or sores that keep on bleeding and won't heal should get them checked by professional dermatologists. These might as well be signs of malignant growth leading to cancer.

Dermatologists advise annual skin check-ups to keep a check on any sort of abnormal growth leading to Melanoma. Patients having many atypical moles go through a medical condition called Familial Atypical Multiple Mole-Melanoma or FAMMM.

Moles can develop anywhere in the body and vary in colour between brown, pink, red to skin-coloured. The following points can determine whether a mole is dangerous or not.

  • If the mole's shape is asymmetrical, meaning unequal is the shape, then there is a high chance of it being cancerous.
  • The moles having eloped, notched or scalloped borders indicate that it is leading to Melanoma or another skin disease.
  • The uneven colouring of the mole, or that has changed colour over time, also indicates cancerous growth.
  • Development of new growth for over ¼ of an inch, or about 6 millimetres, generally lead to Melanoma or another malignant disease.
  • It is advised to observe moles showing the change in shape, size, colour or height. More importantly, if some or all of the mole turns black. Moles also might develop new symptoms, including bleeding and itching if the mole.

A malignant growth or the body can vary in appearance a lot. Some might have all the above qualities while others are having some of them.

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