A mole is a small coloured spot on the skin which is made up of a cluster of cells known as melanocytes, which are responsible for producing the pigment in your skin. Occasionally these melanocytes grow in a cluster instead of being spread out, which results in the formation of a mole.
Alternative names: naevus, nevus, junctional naevus, compound naevus, intra-dermal naevus, congenital melanocytic naevus, halo naevus, atypical naevus, dysplastic naevus, epidermal naevus, naevus sebaceous, naevus lipomatosus superficialis.
What causes Moles?
Moles are dark spots that can appear anywhere on the body and can be raised or flat. Sometimes moles are present at birth, but usually they develop in childhood. Genetics can play an important role in the likelihood of an individual developing moles. Many people also find that their moles change and respond to hormonal changes, for example during pregnancy they may get darker, puberty may cause more moles to appear, and from around the age of 40 to 50 they may begin to fade away and disappear. Sun exposure is also a causal factor.
What are the symptoms/types of Moles?
Moles are usually brown but can vary from flesh-coloured, to pink, black or blue. They are sometimes flat (junctional), may be raised and rounded (intradermal) or warty looking (compound). They are usually quite symmetrical, circular and evenly pigmented.
What Mole treatments are available?
For cosmetic removal, a shave excision is the most satisfactory treatment for getting rid of protuberant moles. If a mole presents worrying signs, surgical excision is the best option: our doctors offer consultation and treatment services to anyone concerned about their moles and will perform mole removal if necessary or desirable.
Having a mole removed is very easy. You will only need to have a local anaesthetic and the procedure can be carried out at the clinic. Depending on the amount of tissue that has to be removed, you may need stitches and there could be a small scar after the procedure. Your doctor can tell you what to expect when you discuss the removal. The removed mole can be checked in the lab for signs of cancer. You may need further treatment if any cancer cells are found.
Mole treatments we offer include:
- Shave excisions
- Surgical excisions
Frequently asked questions
Most moles are not a cause for concern and present a purely cosmetic problem. However, moles can occasionally undergo changes that lead to them becoming cancerous i.e. they turn into a malignant melanoma. If a mole is changing in size, shape or colour, it may be coming ‘atypical’ or ‘dysplastic’. Moles that look like this have a higher risk of becoming melanoma, which is why it is essential to have them checked if you have any concern.
A cosmetic mole removal can be performed just because you are unhappy with your mole. If you are feeling self-conscious or a raised mole is causing problems by getting caught on your clothing, it might be worth considering a removal. Mole removal can also be required for medical reasons. If you have noticed changes in the size, shape, colour or appearance of a mole, it is a good idea to see a dermatologist at the London clinic. The doctor can assess the risk of skin cancer and perform a removal if necessary. For further information on malignant melanoma, please see the British Association of Dermatologists website leaflet on melanoma.
Most moles are completely harmless, but it’s important to check your skin regularly so that you can spot any changes in size, shape, or colour early and get them checked out. Moles are typically brown in colour, although they can also be much darker, or may even be skin coloured. They can either be flat or raised, rough or smooth, and some may have hair growing from them.
Things to look out for when you’re checking your moles include:
- Asymmetry: The two halves of the area may differ in shape.
- Border: The edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches.
- Diameter: Most melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter. Report any change in size, shape or diameter to your doctor.
- Expert: If in doubt, check it out.
A change in the size and shape of your moles doesn’t necessarily mean that you have developed melanoma; there are a variety of other reasons why your moles may be behaving that way. The most important thing to remember is to check your moles regularly.