Moles are one of the most common reasons some of our patients come to see us. Moles are pigmented growths on the skin medically known as nevi. They can be present at birth but most moles develop later in childhood until adulthood. They can be cancerous or pre-cancerous and you can visit Dr Cebi for a skin exam to determine which mole you may have.
Most people have moles which are made up of cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes are found scattered throughout our skin and are the cells that give our skin its natural colour by generating a pigment called melanin. A mole is made of many melanocyte cells clustered together.
What do they look like?
Moles are usually brown but can vary in colour from pink, light brown, dark brown, blue or even black. They can be flat (junctional nevi) or raised (compound nevi). Some people have more moles than others — the average person has 10-40 moles. There are factors which can cause moles to darken, such as pregnancy or sun exposure. They grow very slowly and may have hair in them. They can be found anywhere on your skin, including your scalp, nails and genitalia.
Can a mole turn into cancer?
A mole can become skin cancer which is referred to as melanoma. You should be concerned when your mole looks different from others, is painful or bleeding.
How is a mole evaluated?
Dr Cebi will examine your skin, comparing one mole to the next, looking for ones that stand out. During your exam, you need to point out any moles that you are concerned about. Dr Cebi may then use an instrument, called a dermatoscope, which illuminates and magnifies the mole. This is usually followed by mole-mapping to keep record of the mole to monitor change over a period of time. If a mole is suspicious, a biopsy will be done which involves numbing the affected skin and removing a small area to determine under the microscope if the mole is abnormal. Results are usually available within a few days but can be classified as:
No further treatment is needed. If your entire mole was not removed with the biopsy, some colour may persist or recur at your biopsy site.
This includes a variety of terms including “atypical” or “dysplastic”. These moles are not cancer and may or may not need to be removed completely. Dr Cebi will recommend treatment based on the specifics of your results. Annual full body skin exams are often recommended for patients with a history of abnormal moles as this diagnosis may increase your risk for melanoma.
This is the most concerning type of skin cancer. You will need to have skin surgery to remove the cancer and will be referred to other specialists for further evaluation of your lymph nodes and removal of the cancer based on your results.
You can help prevent skin cancer by protecting your skin from the sun’s rays from an early age.
• Monitor your moles by examining your skin carefully, including areas of skin not exposed to the sun, on a monthly basis.
• Avoid tanning and do not use UV tanning booths.
• Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has coverage for both UVA and UVB daily. Apply at least 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours — more frequently if you’re in the water or the sun a lot.
• Seek shade, especially at times of peak sun between 10 AM and 4 PM.
• Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
• See Dr Cebi once a year for a check-up or more if you have a suspicious lesion. Better safe than sorry!