Moles are common. Almost every adult has a few moles. Adults who have light skin often have more moles. They may have 10 to 40 moles on their skin. This is normal.
You should not be overly worried about your moles. But you should know:
- A type of skin cancer, melanoma, can grow in or near a mole.
Caught early and treated, melanoma can be cured.
The first sign of melanoma is often a change to a mole — or a new mole on your skin.
Checking your skin can help you find melanoma early. A dermatologist can show you how to examine your skin and tell you how often you should check your skin.
Moles in children: What parents should know
Moles on a young child’s skin are generally nothing to worry about. It is normal for new moles to appear during childhood and adolescence. Moles will grow as the child grows. Some moles will darken, and others will lighten. These changes are expected in children and seldom a sign of melanoma — a type of skin cancer that can begin in a mole.
MOLES: SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
People often want to know how they can tell a mole from a melanoma. Here is a general rule.
A mole on your body has these traits:
- 1 color – Often brown, but a mole can be tan, black, red, pink, blue, skin-toned, or colorless.
Round in shape.
- Flat or slightly raised.
- Looks the same from month to month.
Your moles may not look alike. Even in the same person, moles can differ in size, shape, or color. Moles can have hair. Some moles will change slowly over time, possibly even disappearing.
Moles can appear anywhere on the skin. Moles develop on the scalp, between the fingers and toes, on the soles and palms, and even under the nails.
If you see a mole or new spot on your skin that has any of the ABCDEs of melanoma, see a dermatologist immediately.
MOLES: DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
How do dermatologists tell whether a spot is a mole?
A dermatologist’s trained eye can often tell whether a spot is a mole.
How do dermatologists treat moles?
Most moles do not require treatment. A dermatologist will remove a mole that:
Bothers a patient (rubs against clothing, etc.).
- A patient finds unattractive.
- Could be skin cancer.
A dermatologist can remove a mole during an office visit. A few moles will require a second visit. Whether it’s during 1 or 2 visits, a dermatologist can safely and easily remove a mole.
A dermatologist will use 1 of these procedures:
- Surgical excision: The dermatologist cuts out the entire mole and stitches the skin closed. If the dermatologist suspects that the mole contains cancer, the dermatologist will send the mole to a lab. It will be examined under a microscope. This is called a biopsy.
- Surgical shave: The dermatologist uses a surgical blade to remove the mole.
Never try to shave off a mole at home.
Here’s why you should never try to shave off a mole at home:
If the mole contains skin cancer, some of the cancer cells can stay in the skin — and even spread.
You can disfigure your skin, causing a scar or other permanent reminder.
You can cause an infection.
After a mole is removed, the skin will heal. If the mole grows back, immediately make another appointment to see your dermatologist. This is a sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
SEBORRHEIC KERATOSES: OVERVIEW
Seborrheic keratosis (seb-o-REE-ik care-uh-TOE-sis) is a common skin growth. It may look worrisome, but it is benign (not cancer). These growths often appear in middle-aged and older adults. Some people get just one. It is, however, more common to have many. They are not contagious.
Most often seborrheic keratoses start as small, rough bumps. Then slowly they thicken and get a warty surface. They range in color from white to black. Most are tan or brown.
They can appear almost anywhere on the skin.
Seborrheic keratoses can look like warts, moles, actinic keratoses, and skin cancer. They differ, though, from these other skin growths. Seborrheic keratoses have a waxy, “pasted-on-the-skin” look. Some look like a dab of warm, brown candle wax on the skin. Others may resemble a barnacle sticking to a ship.
SEBORRHEIC KERATOSES: SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Seborrheic keratoses tend to:
Start as small, rough bumps, then slowly thicken and develop a warty surface.
Have a waxy, stuck-on-the-skin look.
Be brown, though they range in color from white to black.
Range in size from a fraction of an inch to larger than a half-dollar.
Form on the chest, back, stomach, scalp, face, neck, or other parts of the body (but not on the palms and soles).
Cause no pain — some itch.
SEBORRHEIC KERATOSES: WHO GETS AND CAUSES
Who gets seborrheic keratoses?
In most people, seborrheic keratoses first appear in middle age or later. People who are most likely to get these growths have family members with seborrheic keratoses.
Sometimes the growths appear during pregnancy or after estrogen replacement therapy. Children rarely have these growths.
What causes seborrheic keratoses?
The cause of seborrheic keratoses is unknown. We do know the following:
- Seborrheic keratoses seem to run in families. Some people seem to inherit a tendency to get many of these growths.
- Some studies suggest that sun exposure may play a role. But we know that these growths appear on skin that gets sun and skin that is always covered. So more research is needed.
- Seborrheic keratoses are not contagious. These growths may seem to multiply and spread to other parts of the body. The truth is, this does not happen.
SEBORRHEIC KERATOSES: TIPS FOR MANAGING
Most seborrheic keratoses do not require care. You should see a dermatologist if:
- The growth grows quickly, turns black, itches, or bleeds (possible signs of skin cancer).
Many new skin growths suddenly appear. This can be a sign of cancer inside the body.
Your skin growth does not look like a typical seborrheic keratosis.
Your growth is dry, flat, rough, and scaly. It could be an actinic keratosis, which can progress to a type of skin cancer.
The growth is easily irritated, such as from shaving or clothes rubbing against it.
You want the growth taken off because you do not like how it looks.
Do not try to remove a seborrheic keratosis yourself. There is a risk of infection.