Moles, medically known as nevi, are growths on the skin that are usually brown or black. They can appear anywhere on the body, alone or in groups. Moles occur when the cells in the skin grow in clusters instead of spreading evenly throughout the skin. These cells are what give skin its pigment, so moles appear darker than the skin. Many moles will darken over time, when exposed to the sun, and during pregnancy. It is also common for hairs to grow on the mole. Individuals with lighter skin tend to have more moles than those with darker skin, and most people with moles have between 10 and 40. Moles are generally harmless, but it is important to know that melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, can develop in or around a mole, so knowing your moles is essential to catching signs of cancer early.
There are several types of moles, and some carry greater risks of developing into melanoma than others.
If Drs. Winton, Clemons, Benson, and Peterson test a tissue sample and find it to be cancerous, the entire mole and part of the tissue surrounding the mole will need to be removed. Or, if you would like a mole removed for cosmetic purposes, the same procedure will be performed. Mole removal surgery is very common and usually painless. There are two ways to remove moles, and both can be performed in our offfice.
One method for removing the mole is called “shave excision.” Drs. Winton, Clemons, Benson, and Peterson will numb the area around the mole, and use a small blade to cut around and beneath the mole, removing it. This technique is generally used for smaller moles, and does not require stitches.
The other method is called “excisional surgery.” Drs. Winton, Clemons, Benson, and Peterson will cut out the mole and the surrounding area of skin with a scalpel. This technique is usually used to remove potentially cancerous moles, and does require stitches to close the skin.
The best way to identify potential problems is to know the pattern and placement of your moles, and to examine them often. When monitoring your moles, remember the “ABCDE” method of self-examination. That is:
If you notice any of the above irregularities in your moles, you should contact Drs. Winton, Clemons, Benson, and Peterson right away. To further prevent moles from becoming cancerous, you should avoid the sun at peak hours, always wear sunscreen, and cover up moles with clothing when exposed to the sun.