What are moles?
Moles, also known as nevi, are benign growths of the skin. They develop from melanocytes, which are the cells that give the skin its color. Moles arise when the melanocytes grow in a cluster, instead of being spread out uniformly in the skin. Moles can be flat or raised, pigmented or flesh-colored. Most moles are uniform in color and shape. They develop after birth although some moles are present at the time of birth. Most people will have less than 50 moles. It is not unusual to develop new moles during life.
What are dysplastic moles?
Dysplastic moles are abnormal moles. About 10% of Americans will have at least one dysplastic mole. Frequently these moles appear different than normal moles. Dysplastic moles may have one or more of the following features: irregular borders, size larger than a pencil eraser, dark coloration, orange or red coloration, irregular coloration instead of one uniform color, abnormal sensation such as itching. Any mole that looks different than other moles should be examined by a dermatologist.
Dysplastic moles are more likely than normal moles to evolve into skin cancers, called melanomas. However, any normal appearing mole can also change with time and become dysplastic or even cancerous.
Are moles dangerous?
Although most moles never become cancerous, any mole that changes in size, color, shape, sensation or that bleeds should be examined by your dermatologist.
How are abnormal moles treated?
If your dermatologist examines a mole and is concerned that it may be cancerous or pre-cancerous, the dermatologist will recommend that it be surgically removed. Several methods can be used to remove moles. These include shave excision, in which a scalpel is used to "shave" beneath the mole. Punch excision utilizes a small "cookie-cutter" like device to cut around the mole. Surgical excision involves cutting a small oval around the mole and stitching the area closed (see Surgery). Moles that have been removed are sent to the dermatopathologist for examination. The only way to determine if a mole is abnormal or cancerous is to send it to the dermatopathologist for examination under the microscope.
How can Cary Dermatology help with your moles?
The providers at Cary Dermatology have had extensive training in the examination of moles and other skin growths. They will evaluate your moles and recommend treatment if they appear abnormal.