Skin Condition of the Month: Moles

How to Treat Skin CancerChances are you have at least one mole on your body. Most people refer to them as a beauty mark. While moles are a very common skin condition, it is important to know the different types of moles that can be present on our bodies and what to look for in an abnormal mole. At Dermatology Associates of Atlanta, we believe educating our patients is the first step to proper skin care. So, this December, we are highlighting moles as our skin condition of the month.

What are Moles?

Moles are a common skin growth that occurs on many adults. While moles are generally harmless, a few types can increase your risk of melanoma. Below are the most common types of moles:

Common Mole: Common moles are small pink, brown, or tan growths with a distinct edge.

Atypical Moles: Atypical moles are often larger than common moles, are oddly shaped, and have a ragged edge. Their color may vary, and they can sometimes appear to be flesh-colored.  It is possible for atypical moles to develop into melanoma, though this is rare.

Congenital Mole: Congenital moles occur at birth and affect roughly 1 in every 100 people. It is common for congenital moles to develop into melanoma, especially if the mole grows and reaches a diameter of more than 8 millimeters.

Spitz Nevus: Spitz nevus is dome-shaped moles that vary in color from pink and red to black and brown. While spitz nevus commonly resembles melanoma, they are often benign and develop early in life. This type of mole can often bleed, ooze, and itch.

Causes and Symptoms of Moles

Moles are comprised of cells that pigment your skin known as melanocytes. When these cells grow in clusters, moles develop. A common mole will appear on your skin as a small, round brown spot; however, this may not always be the case. Each type of mole has its own unique appearance, but there are some common symptoms among all moles which include:

  • Round with a distinct edge
  • Itching, bleeding or oozing
  • Varying in color (red, black, red, pink, or skin-toned)
  • Wrinkled, smooth, or raised

It is important to seek a skin exam if you discover moles on your body and to perform self-checks to monitor any changes in your moles. Self-checks help spot potential melanoma, and we recommend that patients follow the ABCDE guidelines to know what to look for:

Asymmetry refers to a mole that isn’t consistent in size, shape, or color. One half of the mole will appear different from the other half.
Borders refer to the mole’s shape and whether it has a defined border or is irregularly shaped.
Color refers to a mole that either has multiple colors or has changed color.
Diameter refers to a change in size or a mole that reaches a size larger than a pencil eraser.
Evolving refers to changes in size, shape, color, or feeling, such as bleeding or itchiness.

How are Moles Treated?

While normal moles are harmless, there may be some instances where removal is necessary due to cancer or desired due to aesthetics. Mole removal can be completed during an appointment with your dermatological provider and typically only require one visit. There are a few ways to remove a mole including laser, surgical excision, or surgical shave. We will recommend the best option based on the type of mole you have. Regardless of which procedure is used, the removed mole will be examined and tested, if necessary, to determine whether cancer cells are present. It is vital that you do not attempt to remove moles at home, as this increases the risk of scarring and infection. Furthermore, if the mole is a melanoma, the cancer cells may remain in the skin, which is why the right dermatological treatment is so important.

Getting Expert Care at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta

While most moles may be harmless, it is important to have them examined by an experienced, board-certified dermatologist or physician assistant to know with certainty. Our board-certified dermatological providers have extensive experience treating and evaluating moles for potential melanoma. If you have concerns about your moles or notice any changes in their appearance, contact Dermatology Associated of Atlanta to schedule an appointment. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for additional skin care tips, practice updates, and much more.