Moles

1 What are Moles?

Moles or nevi is a common type of growth on the skin that are caused by clusters of pigmented cells and which appears as small dark brown spots. Some moles can appear at birth but most commonly seen in childhood and adolescence which may disappear or fade as you age, while most people have 10 to 45 moles all over their body which appears before the age of 40.

Moles are harmless but dome are cancerous so we should monitor or be aware of our moles in our body to detect if it is cancerous or a skin cancer or malignant melanoma.

2 Symptoms

The main symptom of moles is a brown spot. But they come in different shapes, sizes and colors. They can vary in shape from round to oval. The size of the mole is usually less than ¼ inch or 16 millimeters in diameter. Moles can be black, red, tan, pink, blue or brown in color and can be smooth, raised, and flat or wrinkled in texture. Moles can appear at birth and can cover wide areas of your body part; it can only be seen in your scalp, under your nails, armpits, between your fingers and toes.

Most people have 10 to 45 moles all over their body which appears before the age of 40 and can change overtime in appearance or some may even disappear. You can also have moles if you reached adolescence or if you are pregnant it may become larger, darker and may multiply.

There is an ABCDE guide to help you see if your mole is normal or may become melanoma.

The ABCDE includes:

  • A for asymmetrical shape meaning the other half is bigger or smaller than the other half,
  • B for border meaning search for moles with notched, scalloped and irregular borders,
  • C for color, if your mole changed over time, it has uneven color, if your mole has 1 or more colors,
  • D for diameter, look for a mole larger than 16 millimeters or ¼ inch,
  • E for evolving, these are the moles that changes in shape, size, height and color especially if it turns black.

A malignant or cancerous mole may show only 1 or 2 or may show all the features of a normal mole. Contact your doctor if your mole itches, painful, bleeds or oozes or shows any signs of the ABCDE characteristics, if you are over 30 years old and there is a new mole, if it comes back after you had it removed. Once you see your doctor, ask him if he can refer you to a dermatologist that specializes in skin conditions.

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3 Causes

Moles are caused when cells in the skin, called melanocytes, grow in clusters or clumps. 

The natural pigment that gives your skin its color is called melanin. It is produced when melanocytes are distributed throughout your skin.

4 Making a Diagnosis

If your mole concerns you, you might want to see your doctor and he may refer you to a dermatologist that specializes in skin disorders for diagnosis and treatment. You may bring a family member or a close friend in order for them to help you with relevant information and to support you.

Bring a notebook so that you can list all the things that you want to ask the doctor or things that he will tell you.

You can also list down the symptoms that you are experiencing and the medications, supplements or vitamins that you are taking every day. Write down the medical conditions that you had and family history.

If you had melanoma before kindly note the date of removal and the location of the lesion. Bring a biopsy report if you have one and do not wear makeup or opaque nail polish because the dermatologist may find it difficult to perform a skin exam.

List the questions you want to ask the dermatologist. Some of the questions are:

  • Is my mole cancerous?
  • How can you tell if it is normal or cancerous?
  • What action should I take?
  • What can I do to prevent moles from developing again?
  • What websites or brochures can you recommend?

Your dermatologist may ask you these questions:

  • When did your first notice this mole? Is it new or not?
  • Did you notice any changes in this mole, like size or shape or color?
  • Have you surgically removed any moles in the past? If so, are they malignant or atypical?
  • Do you have a family history of atypical moles, cancer or melanoma?
  • Have you had peeling sunburns?
  • Are you exposed to ultraviolet radiation like tanning lamps?

Your doctor will give you an option for skin examination, talk to your doctor and schedule it. Your doctor may take a tissue sample for biopsy if he suspects that your mole is cancerous.

5 Treatment

Mole treatment usually is not necessary unless it is cancerous, so your doctor may recommend a biopsy to be tested. You can remove your mole if it is cancerous, your doctor will do a surgical procedure. If it is in a beard area or armpit, you might as well remove it because shaving will cause irritation and may prevent trauma and friction; this is usually done on an outpatient basis and takes only a short time.

There are options for mole removal such as: surgical shave, this is commonly used for small moles that don’t require sutures, wherein your doctor will numb the area surrounding the moles and uses a small blade to cut beneath and around it; and surgical excision, this is done by numbing the area where your mole is located and cuts the mole and a surrounding margin of healthy skin with a sharp punch device or scalpel then closes the wound with a suture.

These procedures may leave a permanent scar. If it grows back, visit your doctor again. If you do not want your moles to be seen, you can apply makeup for concealing moles and blemishes; you can also use hair removal if your mole has hair or hairs in it, you may try plucking or clipping it. But before plucking it, ask your dermatologist first if it is okay to do so and if a mole doesn't heal.

6 Prevention

To limit the development of moles or to prevent melanoma, here are some measures you can do:

  • always watch for changes in your mole,
  • you might want to examine your skin and do a head to toe check up in your scalp, fingernails, palms, chest, armpits, genital area, toenails, soles of your feet, in between the toes, in between your buttocks especially if you have a family history of melanoma.
  • you can use a hand held mirror to scan the hard to see places including your back and nape.
  • you may also ask your dermatologist to help you.

You can also use the ABCDE procedure to look for melanoma or skin cancers:

  • A for asymmetrical shape meaning the other half is bigger or smaller than the other half;
  • B for border meaning search for moles with notched, scalloped and irregular borders;
  • C for color, if your mole changed over time, it has uneven color, if your mole has 1 or more colors;
  • D for diameter, look for a mole larger than 16 millimeters or ¼ inch;
  • E for evolving, these are the moles that changes in shape, size, height and color especially if it turns black.

Always protect your skin especially from ultraviolet radiation such as sunlight and tanning lamps or beds because UV radiation can increase your melanoma risk. Avoid peak sun times, if you are going out, try to stay outside during 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM because the sunlight is at its strongest. Always use sunscreens, you must apply within 30 minutes before going out with an SPF of at least 15, re apply after every two hours especially if you are sweating or swimming.

A broad spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology. When going out also use sunglasses, hats and protective clothing to avoid UV rays damage in your skin. You can also avoid tanning beds and lamps for it can increase your risk in skin cancer.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Here are some of the homeopathic remedies if you are bothered or irritated by your moles. It includes:

  • Pulsatilla,
  • Aceticum acidum,
  • Floricum acidum,
  • Phosphorus,
  • Thuja occidentalis,
  • Calcarea carbonica, Sulphur,
  • Carbo vegetabilis,
  • Graphites,
  • Lycopodium,
  • Petroleum,
  • Sepia,
  • Radium bromatum,
  • Carcinosin,
  • Medorrhinum,
  • Cundurango,
  • Platina.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with moles.

You cannot treat mole unless it is cancerous.

If you are bothered by your mole, set an appointment with your doctor and seek advice.

If your mole is in your armpits or beard, refrain from shaving it because it may cause irritation.

You can apply makeup to hide the blemishes or your mole.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with moles.

The main complication of mole is melanoma, some may have a higher average of risk of their moles becoming cancerous.

The factors that may increase your risk are:

  • having large moles or congenital nevi, in infants if it is larger than 2 inches or 5 centimeters, but sometimes a large mole isn't cancerous and almost never before the child reaches puberty;
  • having unusual moles that have irregular shape known as atypical or dysplastic nevi or one is bigger than the other and tends to be hereditary and are dark brown;
  • having many moles like 50 moles all over your body.
  • there are two recent studies that add to the evidence that the number of moles in your body predict cancer risk:
  1. the first one shows that a person with 20 moles on their arms are at risk of melanoma,
  2. the other one shows the relationship between the number of women’s moles and breast cancer risk;
  • having a family history of melanoma, some are genetic.
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