MOLES (NEVI)

    The term mole (nevus) encompasses a wide variety of skin lesions ranging from flat freckle-like lesions to large pebbly-surfaced hairy patches.  Moles are simply a collection of pigment cells in the skin.  You can be born with moles or they can be acquired throughout your life (typically in the first five decades).  Because they derive from pigment cells, moles are typically brown in color but their color ranges from pink to black.

    Not all brown spots are moles.  Brown spots can result from increased numbers of pigment cells as with moles or they can be related to increased production or retention of pigment.  This is the case for example with "liver spots", freckles, melasma, or darkening of the skin from inflammation or trauma.  Dermatologists are the medical experts at identifying the source of pigmented lesions.   

    Moles are benign lesions but like any pigment cell in your skin they harbor the potential to be damaged by UV light which can result in transformation into melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer.  This is why it is important to know your moles--people who check themselves regularly and who are examined by medical professionals have a decreased risk of dying from melanoma.  

    The changing mole:  We should all be familiar with the axiom "a changing mole may be a sign of cancer".   This is very true but not all changes in moles are worrisome.  Moles may change color, they may get wider, they may raise up but changes in moles are typically gradual (years to decades) and symmetrical (occuring equally along each axis). Any change in a mole that is different from this should be considered a warning sign of possible melanoma and should be evaluated in a dermatology office.

    You can find more information on melanoma on our skin cancer page or on the American Academy of Dermatology website.

    As always, you can contact our office to answer any questions or concerns.

     

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