Moles are spots on the skin. Nearly everyone has 10 to 50 moles on their body. Actually, you are born with moles that are flesh colored. Through time moles enlarge and darken making them more noticeable. Moles are often referred to as beauty marks and at various times in history moles on the face have been considered attractive and were created artificially with dyes or makeup. Others find moles unsightly and have the moles removed for cosmetic purposes or concern that the moles might become cancerous.
Moles can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups. They are usually brown in colour and can be various sizes and shapes. The brown color is caused by melanocytes, special cells that produce the pigment melanin. Moles probably are determined before a person is born. Most appear during the first 20 years of a person’s life, although some may not appear until later in life.
Sun exposure increases the number of moles. Each mole has its own growth pattern. At first, moles are flat and tan, pink, brown or black in color, like a freckle. Over time, they usually enlarge and some develop hairs. As the years pass, moles usually change slowly, becoming more raised and lighter in color. Some will not change at all. Most moles will slowly disappear, seeming to fade away. Others will become raised so far from the skin that they may develop a small “stalk” and eventually fall off or are rubbed off. This is the typical life cycle of the common mole.
These changes occur slowly since the life cycle of the average mole is about 50 years. Moles may darken, with exposure to the sun. During the teen years, with birth control pills and pregnancy, moles often get darker and larger and new ones may appear.
A single mole is called ‘nevus’ and multiple moles are called ‘nevi’. Moles occur when skin cells called melanocytes grow in clusters instead of being spread throughout the skin.
Melanocytes make the pigment that gives skin its natural color. This pigment darkens under ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning beds and creates a tan. In many cultures the tan look connotes being healthy, but scientific research is changing that perspective. Recent scientific studies point to overexposure to UV light as a contributing factor to skin cancers. One of the most virulent types of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanoma begins in meloncytes cells. It can begin on a new site on the skin, but frequently begins in moles where the meloncyte cells cluster.
Melanin is a natural pigment that gives your skin its color. It’s produced in cells called melanocytes, either in the top layer of the skin (epidermis) or the outer layers of the skin’s second layer (dermis). Melanin is then transported to the surface cells of your skin. Normally, melanin is distributed evenly, but sometimes melanocytes grow together in a cluster, giving rise to moles.
Scientists don’t know why moles develop or what purpose they serve, if any, although they do appear to be determined before birth. Most moles are harmless and don’t require special care, but some people have unusual-looking moles, called dysplastic nevi, which are more likely to turn cancerous than ordinary moles are. Atypical moles occur most often on the back in both men and women, and also on the abdomen, chest and legs in women.
Several types of moles have a higher than average risk of becoming cancerous. They include:
Large moles present at birth. Large moles that are present at birth are called congenital nevi or giant hairy nevi. These moles may increase your risk of malignant melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. In general, moles that are more than the size of an adult open palm pose the greatest risk. Have your doctor examine any mole that was present at birth and is palm-sized or larger.
Moles that run in families. Moles that are larger than average â€” which is about 1/4 inch (6 millimeters), or the diameter of a pencil eraser â€” and irregular in shape are known as atypical (dysplastic) nevi. These moles tend to be hereditary. They’re frequently described as looking like fried eggs because they usually have dark brown centers and lighter, uneven borders. Overall, they may look red or tan. If you have dysplastic nevi, you have a greater risk of developing malignant melanoma.
Numerous moles. If you have many moles larger than a pencil eraser, you are at greater risk of developing melanoma.
Normal moles or nevi have the following characteristics:
They range in color from pink, light to dark browns and even to black.
Their shape can be round or oval.
Their size can range from barely visible to quite large areas.
They may form a raised bump on the skin or they may be flat
They may or may not have hairs.
Dysplastic Nevi are atypical or abnormal moles that look different than normal moles. Studies show that around 1 in 10 people have at least one dysplastic nevi mole on their body. Recent studies reveal that dysplastic nevi are more likely to turn into melanoma than normal moles. Not everyone that has dysplastic nevi gets melanoma. Most moles, both normal and dyplastic nevi never turn cancerous. However, because that possibility exists, all types of moles deserve careful examination for changes. The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute recommends seeing a doctor immediately if you notice changes in the size, shape or color of any mole or if it bleeds or becomes painful.
Dysplastic Nevi have the following characteristics:
Borders are irregular and ill defined
Have both flat and raised surfaces
Measure 5-15mm in diameter which is larger than a common mole
Color ranges from tan to dark brown on a pink background
May appear anywhere on the body, but most frequently found on back, chest, buttock, breast and scalp. The are found on sun-exposed as well as sun protected areas on the body.
Persons with dysplastic nevi may have about 100 moles whereas, most people have only 15-20 common moles.
How moles can be treated:
If your doctor takes a tissue sample of the mole and finds it to be cancerous, the entire mole and a margin of normal tissue around it needs to be removed. Usually a mole that has been removed won’t reappear. If it does, see your doctor promptly.
Treatment of most moles usually isn’t necessary. For cosmetic reasons, a mole can be removed in several ways:
Shave excision: In this method, your doctor numbs the area around a mole and then uses a small blade to shave off the mole close to your skin.
Punch biopsy: Your doctor may remove a mole with a small incision or punch biopsy technique, which uses a small cookie-cutter-like device.
Excisional surgery: In this method, your doctor cuts out the mole and a surrounding margin of healthy skin.
These procedures are usually performed in the office of your doctor or dermatologist and take only a short time.
Moles can be treated and removed in numerous ways; removed with surgery, cryosurgery, removed with acids, removed by lasers, and removed by herbal products (BIO-T). Below you will find a short description of the procedures.
Surgery: A physician removed the tissue with a scalpel and sutures the wound closed. Frequently, surrounding tissue is destroyed as well. Pain is associated with this procedure and pain killers are prescribed frequently to alleviate the pain. Some scarring is possible.
Electrosurgery: A physician shaves the mole with a scalpel then destroys the tissue below the surface with an electric needle. If the wounds size warrants it, the wound is sutured closed. some scarring possible.
Cryosurgery: A physician uses liquid nitrogen to destroy the tissue. This procedure can destroy surrounding tissue as well and can cause scarring. Some pain is associated with this procedure.
Laser surgery: A physician uses a special laser to destroy the nevi tissue. This procedure minimizes destruction of surrounding tissue. Some scarring is possible.
Acids. Some over- the- counter and prescription products contain acids that destroy the nevi tissue. This procedure is lengthy (up to six weeks) and is non-selective, meaning that it destroys all tissue it comes into contact with. Highest potential for scarring.
Herbal: BIO-T is applied to the mole as a paste and covered with a band-aid. Within 5 or 6 days (after 2 or more daily applications) the mole is destroyed. Some scaring is possible, but can be minimized with application of a moisturizing creme AFTER the mole is gone. BIO-T has a pH of 5.5 and is neither acidic or alkaline and does not effect healthy tissue. Click to order for BIO-T Click to see the pictures of removal and process of healing.
Natural & Homeopathic Treatment of Moles
Additional information on the link between abnormal moles and cancer
The link between dysplastic moles and melanoma was first reported in the 1970s when scientists observed that members of a melanoma-prone family had numerous large, abnormal moles on their bodies. By the early 1980s, researchers also noted that some people without any family history of melanoma had dysplastic nevi, raising the question of whether these individuals are at increased risk for skin cancer. Subsequent work has largely confirmed this association. In fact, several small studies have suggested that dysplastic nevi could account for 29 percent to 49 percent of nonfamilial melanoma.
Other studies have indicated that people who have numerous abnormal moles could have as great as a sevenfold increased risk for melanoma. However, the subject has remained controversial. Some investigators have stated that the definition of dysplastic nevi in several studies has been too imprecise, subject to bias, and generally inconclusive on the issue of melanoma risk. They have said that without standard criteria to diagnose dysplastic nevi, both in the clinic and under the microscope, clinicians would be hard pressed to differentiate between normal and dysplastic moles.
An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association should help to settle the controversy. The study reported in the journal involved nearly 1,800 people â€” 738 people diagnosed with melanoma and 1,030 people without the disease â€” who were examined primarily at the Melanoma Clinic of the University of California at San Francisco and the Pigmented Lesion Clinic of the University of Pennsylvania, Pa. All participants agreed to an interview, a complete skin examination, photography of their most atypical moles, and possibly a biopsy of their most unusual mole.
In one of the study’s key findings, Tucker et al. report that clinicians independently agreed almost nine out of 10 times on whether a mole was normal or dysplastic. The study defined dysplastic nevi as being flat or partly flat, 5 millimeters or larger, and showing two or more of the following characteristics: variable pigmentation, asymmetric outline, and indistinct borders. “This study adds strong evidence to what several other smaller studies have already demonstrated, ” said Tucker. “By scrupulously adhering to recognized diagnostic criteria, experienced clinicians will agree in most cases that a mole is dysplastic.”
The researchers also found they could correlate the number and type of moles, both normal and abnormal, on a person’s body with their risk of developing melanoma. For those with unusually high numbers of normal, but no abnormal, moles, the researchers calculated a twofold increased risk for melanoma. For those with numerous small and large normal moles, the risk for melanoma was four times higher than normal. The risk associated with clearly defined dysplastic moles was much higher. The scientists estimated that individuals with a single dysplastic mole on their bodies have a twofold risk of developing melanoma. The risk rises to 14-fold in those with 10 or more abnormal moles. “The fact that we could make this correlation strongly suggests that dysplastic nevi are precursor lesions that, with additional genetic damage, can trigger melanoma,” said Tucker.
The best way to catch potential problems at an early stage is to become familiar with the location and pattern of your moles. Examine your skin carefully on a regular basis â€” monthly if you have a family history of melanoma, and at least every three months otherwise â€” to detect early skin changes that may signal melanoma.
Remember to check areas that aren’t exposed to sunlight, including your scalp, armpits, feet (the soles and between the toes), genital area and, if you’re a woman, the skin underneath your breasts. If necessary, use a hand-held mirror along with a wall mirror to scan hard-to-see places such as your back. People with dysplastic nevi are at greater risk of developing malignant melanoma and may want to consider having a dermatologist check their moles on a regular basis.
To detect melanomas or other skin cancers, use the A-B-C-D skin self-examination guide, adapted from the American Academy of Dermatology:
A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.
B is for irregular border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders â€” the characteristics of melanomas.
C is for changes in color. Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color.
D is for diameter. Look for growths that are larger than about 1/4 inch (6 millimeters).
In addition to periodically checking your moles, you can take protective measures to protect yourself from cancerous changes:
Avoid peak sun times. It’s best to avoid overexposure to the sun, but if you must be out of doors, try to stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when ultraviolet rays are most intense.
Use sunscreen. Twenty to 30 minutes before going outdoors, apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Reapply every two hours, especially if you’re swimming or involved in vigorous activities. Some sunscreens contain substances that block both types of ultraviolet rays, ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). Choose sunscreens with avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or transparent or microdispersed zinc oxide listed on the ingredient label. And keep in mind that sunscreen is just one part of a total sun protection program.
Cover up. Broad-brimmed hats, long sleeves and other protective clothing also can help you avoid damaging UV rays. You might also want to consider clothing that’s made with fabric specially treated to block UV radiation.
If you have a mole that’s unattractive, you may choose to cover it up using makeup designed to conceal blemishes and moles. If you have a hair growing from a mole, it may be possible to clip it close to the skin’s surface. Dermatologists also can permanently remove hair from moles. If you have a mole in a beard, you may want to have it removed by your doctor because shaving over it repeatedly may cause irritation. You may also want to have moles removed from other parts of your body that are vulnerable to trauma and friction.
Anytime you cut or irritate a mole, be sure to keep the area clean. See your doctor if the mole doesn’t heal.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.