Moles are commonly brown or black growths found on the skin and can appear anywhere on the skin. They develop in early childhood and during the first 25 years of a person’s life. Moles can appear on children and will often change over time. Some adults can have 10 to 40 moles, and this is normal.
Moles occur when skin cells grow in a cluster instead of being spread out. These cells, called melanocytes, give skin its natural color. Moles darken during exposure to sun, pregnancy, and during teen years. They can appear on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun, like hands, arms, neck, face, and back.
Types of moles:
- Congenital: These moles are present at birth. Some of these have a higher risk of developing melanoma (cancer) than moles that are found after birth. These occur in about 1 out of every 100 people.
- Dysplastic: Often dark brown in the center with lighter edges, these kinds of moles are larger than average. They are more likely to develop into melanoma, especially if you have four or more atypical moles or have a relative with melanoma.
The majority of moles are not cancerous. If you see a change in a mole’s color, height, size, or shape, you should set up an appointment with your dermatologist. Other warning signs of harmful moles are ones that bleed, ooze, itch, or experience pain or tenderness.
If a mole needs to be evaluated further, a dermatologist will shave or cut out the entire spot to evaluate the mole under a microscope. If the mole is determined to be cancerous, the dermatologist will cut out the entire mole and stitch the wound closed.