Nearly everyone has at least a few moles. There are several different kinds of moles which are mostly brown in color and are a collection of the cells which produce color in the skin. Fair skinned people generally have more moles than dark skinned people, and although some babies are born with moles, most appear through the teenage years and before people hit the age of 30.
Moles are harmless and painless, and don’t need any medical attention or removal, unless they are on a part of the body which is causing embarrassment, such as on the face, or where they are rubbing and causing irritation or becoming painful. It is not known why some people have more moles than others, although there appears to be a strong genetic link, especially with the type of moles that are present at birth.
It’s important to be familiar with your moles and know where they are and what they look like. Moles may change in appearance and number over a period of time, especially due to hormone fluctuations in pregnancy or during adolescence or menopause. These changes are normal and are not a cause for concern. However, sudden appearance of new moles, especially on parts of the body which have been exposed to the sun should be reported to a doctor for further investigation. Changes in moles are not always caused by skin cancer, but this is one of the main reasons why moles alter in appearance and the earlier that this is recognized, the easier it is to cure the cancer completely.
If a patient goes to the doctor reporting that new moles are developing or existing moles are changing, the doctor has several courses of action. If the mole is clearly causing concern, the patient will be referred for an urgent biopsy to see whether the cells causing the changes are benign or malignant. If the mole does prove to be cancerous, it will be removed in surgery, along with some of the surrounding skin. If the area of skin which is removed is quite large, a skin graft may be necessary. In smaller moles, or moles where it is not clear whether the changes are anything to be worried about, the doctor will probably monitor the patient closely over a number of weeks to see if there are further changes. Photographs of the moles will be taken so that comparisons can be easily made over a few weeks. The doctor may decide that there is nothing to be worried about after examining the patient and the photographs, or he may decide to refer the patient on to a dermatologist or other expert for further examinations and tests. When caught early, skin cancer is completely cured in the majority of cases, so it is important to quickly report any potential issues to the doctor.
Even when a mole is causing no health problems, the patient may still decide that they would prefer to have it removed for cosmetic reasons. There are many options for removing moles and the decision about which method to use will depend on the location of the mole and its size. Risks of mole removal such as scarring of the skin should be carefully weighed up against the benefits of removing the mole. It may be in many cases that on consideration the doctor and patient decide the best course of action is to do nothing and cover the mole using cosmetics rather than removing it.