Do you see black or brown tiny spots on your face? These are usually harmless beauty marks or skin mole.
A mole is usually harmless and does not itch, hurt or is contagious.
However, there are certain cases whereby a new growth can be cancerous.
Moles are either present at birth or develop over the course of time.
That happens because of sun exposure and melanin production.
Like appearing suddenly, moles can also disappear over time.
A person usually has about 10 to 40 moles that can last for 50 years.
This article discusses the types of moles and how to identify if they are not benign. Keep reading below to know more.
Skin Mole Types
Congenital Moles/Congenital Nevi
These are the nevi present at birth. 1 in 100 babies has these types of moles.
They can be of different colors and are flat.
They are more likely to become melanoma later in life than those that appear over the course of time.
Check if the size of the nevus is more than 8 millimeters. That is a sign of concern that it may turn cancerous however, rare for this type.
A mole that is either pink, brown or tan and has an edge.
They are not present at birth rather develop over time.
These moles look like any normal one, round and brown.
The reason behind is usually sun damage and while they can darken with age, the moles do not change in any other aspect.
It is also rare for them to turn into melanoma.
Dysplastic Nevi/Atypical Moles
These moles are at the most risk of turning cancerous. They are large in size (bigger than a pencil eraser) and do not have a regular shape.
Plus their color is uneven too.
They can have lighter edges and darker centers. They are usually hereditary.
Among all the other moles, these are at the greatest risk of becoming cancerous melanoma.
Hence, if you have any of these, monitor them carefully and get checked for skin cancer.
People who have a dysplastic nevus usually have about 100 moles on their bodies.
There are ways to monitor if your mole is unusual. More on that below.
Normal moles are usually brown. However, they can vary in colors such as pink, black, tan, red or even blue.
They are mostly round in shape but they can appear wrinkled, smooth, raised or flat.
Plus, they are mostly around 6 millimeters in size. Rarely larger.
Causes of Mole on Face and Body
Moles originate from cells growing in the form of clusters rather than spreading evenly in the skin.
These cells are known as melanocytes that are responsible for making the pigment- melanin that gives your skin its color.
Hence, the nevi usually have a brown or black color.
This is an abnormal growth but it does not represent cancer.
The nevi that grow when you are older are usually because of sun exposure, aging skin as well as the melanin production in your skin.
They are usually benign however, they may change color and size in certain conditions.
For instance, they tend to get darker and bigger during puberty and pregnancy.
This change happens because of the hormonal changes during this time.
However, if the change in shape and size is rather abnormal, like an irregularly shaped mole then you should go for a checkup in case some complications have resulted.
What are the complications that can usually result from it? Let’s find out below!
The moles can result in melanoma. This is a type of skin cancer happening because of the melanocytes that clump to form nevi.
You are at risk of developing this cancer if:
- Your skin is fair
- You have had large moles since birth
- A family history of melanoma
- There are many moles in your body
- There are unusual moles
People with fair skin have a greater chance of getting melanoma than those with darker skin tones.
While being born with larger moles may put you at risk of cancer, the chances are low.
Children born with nevi greater than 5 inches or 2 mm in diameters will only have any risk, that too low, when they hit puberty. Not before that.
Atypical moles that are hereditary can cause a genetic melanoma. Hence, if there is a family history of melanoma, you are prone to it too.
Moreover, you are also susceptible to it if you have previously had melanoma.
The number of moles in your body can also determine the overall risk you have.
For instance, if you have more than 50 moles then you are at a greater risk. Having 20 moles only in your arm under the age of 50 is a factor not to be neglected.
In fact, the number of nevi can also have a direct link with a risk for breast cancer.
What’s more, having dysplastic nevi is another risk factor. They can be benign. However, these are more likely to develop into cancer than any other form of nevi.
Hence, look out for the irregularly shaped nevi that have uneven borders and color.
Besides going to the doctor, you can examine your nevi regularly on your own.
In order to do that you will use ABCDE’s to identify the signs of cancerous nevi.
Identifying a Skin Mole to Worry About
The moles that are concerning look different from the normal moles.
Rarely do the ones present at birth turn cancerous. It is usually the moles appearing after you are 30 years old that can pose a problem.
Keep a check on whether the nevus ooze, itch become painful, bleed, become tender or scale.
Check your moles in front of a mirror, especially the parts that get sun exposure,
Examine the arms, neck, face, legs and feet carefully using the ABCDE’s.
These are signs for identifying cancerous nevi.
A for Asymmetry
Normal nevi are round or oval in shape. This means they are usually symmetrical.
If half part of the mole does not match the other half then it is a point for concern.
B for Border
In a normal nevus, the border is defined and regular.
So check if the border is irregular, blurred or ragged which could happen in a dysplastic mole.
C for Color
Check for changes in color.
If it does not remain the same throughout or shows multiple shades of blue, red, white and the usual black and brown then it is a point of concern.
D for Diameter
Examine the diameter of the mole. Around 6 millimeters is fine. However, if it is greater than that or a pencil eraser, then it is concerning.
E for Evolution
E can go for both elevation and evolution.
Look out for how your nevus evolves.
Does it flatten, become raised or changes rapidly in a short amount of time?
If it is showing any of these signs then it needs your attention.
After noticing these signs go to your doctor.
If they find anything suspicious, they will carry out a biopsy i.e. taking a tissue sample for examination.
They can proceed to remove them if they are cancerous.
Skin Mole Removal
If there is any risk of cancer, then your doctor will suggest going through a mole removal procedure surgically.
However, cancer is not the only reason why you may want to get it removed.
If the nevus hurts while you shave then you may also want to remove it. Therefore, the size and location of the mole can also be bothersome enough to go for a removal procedure.
Cosmetic concerns also apply. You may not like how your face looks with a mole. Wanting to remove it is no big deal.
In the surgical procedure, your doctor will first numb the target area and then cut it with some surrounding skin.
This procedure, however, may leave a permanent scar. It is a point of concern if the mole grows back.
However, you can treat the scar with chemical peel and laser to reduce the pigmentation and their appearance.
You should never try to use at-home lasers or other products that burn or freeze skin tags, freckles and moles.
These run a risk of causing infection and removing skin cancer which can spread to other organs.
While you can remove a mole permanently for cosmetic concerns, you can first try concealing it.
If the hair growing inside bothers you, then carefully pluck it.
Though, you will have to do it regularly. Hence, you can decide to get it permanently removed as well.
Other than that, you can protect your skin from getting cancerous moles or any in the first place.
- Examine your skin regularly to look for ABCDE’s and any abnormal growth
- Apply sunscreen for the face and body all year round even if it is a cloudy day. Use a broad-spectrum one of at least SPF 30. Reapply it after every two hours.
- Refrain from going to tanning beds and using such lamps. They emit UV rays that can put you at risk for melanoma.
- Limit sun exposure by not planning any outdoor activities in the peak sun time. This is usually between 10 am to 4 pm.
- Cover up your face and body. Wear a hat, sunglasses and long sleeves plus pants covering legs to block UV radiation.
If you have a skin mole then it is usually not a matter of concern.
However, there are always options to remove it if you do not like it. But what’s more concerning is whether they can turn to melanoma.
Keep examining your body and all the moles to look for signs of change and visit your doctor soon if you see any.