Moles - Marlene J. Mash, MD

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Medical Dermatology
Moles, also known as melanocytic nevus (plural: nevi) are small lesions in the skin. They are a collection of melanocytes. Melanocytes are melanin-producing cells. Melanin is a pigment which gives our skin its color. Moles are usually brownish, but some may be much darker, while others are skin-colored. They can be rough, flat, raised, and have hair coming out of them. They are generally round or oval, and have a smooth edge.

Moles can change in appearance and numbers. Sometimes they eventually fade away or drop off. Some moles respond to changes in hormone levels, as may occur during pregnancy, adolescence and older age. During our teen years they usually grow in number, get darker during pregnancy and gradually fade away when we are older.

A common mole rarely turns into melanoma,  which is the most serious type of skin  cancer. Although common moles are not cancerous, people who have more than 50 common  moles have an increased chance of developing melanoma. People should tell their doctor if they notice any of the following changes  in a common mole:

    • The color changes
    • The mole gets unevenly smaller or bigger (unlike normal moles in children,  which get evenly bigger)
    • The mole changes in shape, texture, or height
    • The skin on the surface becomes dry or scaly
    • The mole becomes hard or feels lumpy
    • It starts to itch
    • It bleeds or oozes
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