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Moles (Nevi)

What is a mole?

Moles are brown or black growths, usually round or oval, that can appear anywhere on the skin. They can be rough or smooth, flat or raised, single or in multiples. They occur when cells that are responsible for skin pigmentation, known as melanocytes, grow in clusters instead of being spread out across the skin. Generally, moles are less than one-quarter inch in size. Most moles appear by the age of 20, although some moles may appear later in life. Most adults have between 10 and 40 moles. Because they last about 50 years, moles may disappear by themselves over time.

Did you know…

Most moles are harmless, but a change in size, shape, color or texture could be indicative of a cancerous growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of moles are there?

Currently, there are four types of moles that dermatologists have to identify to protect your skin. These types include: 

  • Congenital Moles: These moles develop when you are born and can vary in size. Although these are considered common occurrences, larger moles should be checked on a yearly basis due to a slightly higher chance of them developing into melanoma. 
  • Acquired Moles: Acquired moles are the second most common type of moles. They develop after a person is born due to various influences, such as sunlight, hormonal changes, medication, and age. 
  • Dysplastic Moles: Dysplastic moles are abnormally large-sized moles. These moles are larger than the average pencil eraser, asymmetric in shape, feel irregular on the surface, discolored, and/or grow larger over time.  It is common for these moles to develop into melanoma.
  • Spitz Moles: Spitz moles are raised, pink dome-shaped moles that bleed and leak puss. These moles are often the first sign of skin cancer and a skin biopsy is required to ensure it’s not melanoma.
Which moles have a higher chance of becoming cancerous?
  • Congenital Nevi: The larger their size, the greater the risk for developing into a skin cancer.
  • Atypical Dysplastic Nevi: They often appear to have dark brown centers with light, uneven borders.
  • Higher Frequency of Moles: People with 50 or more moles are at a greater risk for developing a skin cancer.

In some cases, abnormal moles may become painful, itchy, scaly or bleed. It’s important to keep an eye on your moles so that you can catch any changes early. We recommend doing a visual check of your body monthly, including all areas that don’t have sun exposure (such as the scalp, armpits or bottoms of feet).

How do I assess whether or not a mole is cancerous?

The best way to assess the malignancy of your moles is to seek professional help. Schedule an appointment with one of our providers for a full body exam and rule out any concerns. Use the American Academy of Dermatology’s ABCDEs as a guide for assessing whether or not a mole may be becoming cancerous:

Asymmetry: Half the mole does not match the other half in size, shape or color.

Border: The edges of moles are irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined.

Color: The mole is not the same color throughout.

Diameter: The mole is usually greater than 6 millimeters when diagnosed, but may also be smaller.

Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that is different from the rest, or changes in size, shape, or color.

If any of these conditions occur, please make an appointment with us right away for a professional evaluation and to discuss treatment options.

How are moles treated?

There are a few different ways our providers can treat the moles. Based on the examination, your provider may recommend removing the mole with a biopsy for a microscopic exam or treat the mole with cryotherapy. The best treatment can be determined with a physical examination, so consult your provider if you have any concerns.

Whether your moles are changing or not, it is highly recommended to have your moles examined by a professional. Borealis Dermatology offers two convenient locations to provide various treatments for our patients in the Queens and Long Island areas. You can experience the highest medical and aesthetic expertise available through our treatment options by visiting our clinic.