Also called a nevus, a mole is a growth of dark or pigmented skin that typically rises above the surrounding skin, forming a flat or rounded bump that can be:
A common mole has well-defined edges and a consistent color. Moles that have uneven edges are called dysplastic moles. Some moles are a sign of cancer. Moles can grow at any time of life, and any new mole should be evaluated as soon as possible to determine if it might be cancerous.
People with many moles tend to be more likely to develop cancer than those with only a few moles.
No. While some moles are a sign of skin cancer, most common and dysplastic moles won’t become cancerous; however, any type of mole -- even one initially thought to be benign -- can become cancerous over time. Newly emerging moles should always be checked for signs of cancer, but even existing moles should be checked if they show any signs of change, such as a change in their:
Moles that begin to itch or ooze also need to be checked.
There are a few basic guidelines that can be used to determine if a mole might be cancerous, but because it can be difficult -- and dangerous -- to rely on self-assessments, it’s much better to schedule an office visit to have the providers at Bellevue Family Medicine evaluate the mole and take a biopsy (small tissue sample) if necessary for further evaluation.
Unless a mole is cancerous or is causing discomfort -- for instance, it’s located in an area that makes it more likely to be irritated -- there’s usually no reason to have a mole removed. A mole may also be removed for aesthetic reasons.
Several techniques are available for mole removal, including:
The providers at Bellevue Family Medicine will administer a local anesthetic to numb the area before the mole is removed.
No. Because moles can be a sign of cancer, mole removal should never, ever be performed at home. Removing the mole without a doctor’s evaluation allows any cancer that is present to spread undetected. Plus, DIY mole removal also significantly increases the risk of infection.
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