Medical Dermatology


Moles (also known as “Nevi”)

Moles are very common in children and adults, especially those with fair skin or light colored eyes. They are usually one color (often brown), but can also be black, tan, red, pink, blue or colorless. Moles are usually round in shape and flat or slightly raised and usually remain unchanged. Normal moles do not, itch, bleed, or hurt. However, when symptoms or changes do occur in moles, it is best to see a dermatologist as this can be a sign of melanoma.

Removing every mole from a person does not eliminate the person’s risk of developing melanoma. Approximately 2/3rds of melanomas do not develop from a pre-existing mole.

Atypical moles:

  • Frequently have clinical features suggestive of melanoma. These may include an odd shape, size larger than the eraser of a pencil, and have more than 1 color.
  • Are more commonly found on the trunk, neck, and scalp. They are rarely found on the face.
  • Some clinically atypical moles will be termed dysplastic moles based on their appearance under a microscope. A dysplastic mole may have abnormally-shaped or disorganized cells. Some dysplastic moles may be difficult to distinguish from early melanomas.
  • People with five or more clinically atypical moles have a 6x higher risk of developing melanoma than those people who do not have any atypical moles.

Congenital Moles:

  • A congenital mole is present since birth and occurs in roughly 1 out of 100 people. These can range in size and shape.
  • Larger congenital moles have a higher likelihood of developing melanoma.

Spitz Nevus:

  • Can resemble melanoma so closely that dermatologists often have a hard time telling just by looking at it.
  • Most commonly, a Spitz nevus is pink, round, and dome shaped. It may also be red, black, or brown.

Acquired Moles:

  • Appear on the skin after a person is born
  • People with light skin often have 10 to 40 of these moles (also called “common moles”). Having more than 50 common moles can increase the risk of melanoma and should be monitored more often.

If your doctor is concerned that the mole could, in face, be a skin cancer, the doctor may recommend a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

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