Mole Quick Facts

·         Moles are close groupings or collections of melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment.

·         They most often appear as tan, brown, dark brown or black growths, usually round or oval, that can appear anywhere on the skin. Moles can also be flesh-colored, pink or reddish. Some moles are speckled in color.

·         They can be flat or elevated from the skin. They can be pebbly in texture, rough or smooth.

·         They can appear at birth, but most begin appearing within the first decade, and typically, new moles do not develop over the age of 20. Moles have a lifecycle and will change over time. After several decades, most moles disappear so that most people have very few if any true moles at the end of their life.

·         Most people have at least a few moles. Some have hundreds of them. The average adult havs between 10 and 40 moles. Having more moles increases one’s chance of malignant melanoma.

·         Most moles are harmless, but a change in size, shape, color or texture could be indicative of a cancerous transformation.

Factors that increase the chance of a patient with moles developing melanoma

Giant Congenital Nevi

·         Very large moles present at birth. The larger their size, the greater the risk for developing into a skin cancer.

Atypical or Dysplastic Nevi

·         Irregularly shaped moles that are larger than average. They often appear to have dark brown centers and uneven borders.

·         Specialists look for the “ugly duckling” or the mole that doesn’t look like the other

·         Under the microscope these moles have atypia or dysplasia, meaning the cells look strange or are arranged in an unusual fashion.

·         They moles are a marker for the potential to develop melanoma

·         Patients with atypical nevi should have skin exams to look for new moles or changing moles

Numerous Moles

·         People with 50 or more moles are at a greater risk for developing a skin cancer. The risk increases over 100 moles and even more over 150 moles

·         The American Academy of Dermatology uses ABCDE criteria for evaluating moles for potential cancer:

o    Asymmetry: One half the mole does not match the other half in size, shape, border or color.

o    Border: The edges of moles are irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined.

o    Color: The mole is not the same color throughout.

o    Diameter: Moles over 6mm are typically those that are at risk for atypia or dysplasia. Obviously exceptions exist.

o    Evolving: A mole that is different from other moles, or one that changes in size, shape, or color over time.

If one of your moles meets the above criteria, or if you have moles that itch, burn, sting or bleed, please make an appointment with a skin specialist quickly.

Often a specialist can determine the risk of the lesion with visual inspection, but if not, or if concern for cancer exists, a biopsy of the mole can be performed to determine the nature of the lesion.