Mole is medically known as melanocytic nevus. This is a type of skin lesion that contains nevus cells or melanocytes. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, moles usually appear during the first two decades of life. A mole can either be subdermal, which grows under the skin, or pigmented. Pigmented moles are formed by pigment forming cells called melanocytes. Most moles are dark in color because of the high concentration of melanin in the particular area. Acquired moles are a form of benign neoplasm, while congenital moles are considered a minor malformation of the skin that may be at risk for skin cancer. Moles are part of the family of skin lesions called nevi.
Classification of moles can be grouped into five types, namely compound nevus, halo nevus, intradermal nevus, junctional nevus and lentigo.
• Compund Nevus – The first type of mole is the compound nevus. It can be described as light to dark brown moles which are slightly or considerably elevated. These moles usually form on the epidermodermal junction and the dermis.
• Halo Nevus – The second type of mole is the halo nevus. Halo nevus is characterized as any type of mole surrounded by a 2-6 mm ring of depigmented skin.
• Intradermal Nevus – Intradermal nevus on the other hand, is described as flesh colored to brown moles that may be smooth, warty or hairy.
• Junctional Nevus – Another type of mole is the junctional nevus. Junctional nevi are moles with light brown to nearly black lesions. These moles are usually flat but may be slightly elevated. They are mostly found on the palms, soles and genitals.
• Lentigo – The last type of mole is the lentigo. Lentigos are uniformly brown or black with sharp edges.
The common types of moles are skin tags, elevated moles and flat moles. Benign moles are usually circular or oval and do not grow into large sizes. Many are alarmed by the presence of moles because some types cause skin cancer. An individual mole is unlikely to become malignant and cause cancer.
In addition to the mentioned types of moles, there is a certain type that is considered unusual. This type is called dysplastic nevi or atypical mole. This type of mole does not show the same characteristic as the other types. It has an irregular border and differentiated color. Dysplastic nevi can highly develop into skin cancer and is a hereditary condition. The risk increases when exposed under the sun.
However, the number of moles can be a predictor for the risk of melanoma (skin cancer). The presence of 20 or more moles can increase the risk of malignancy. One should inspect moles for signs of cancer. The medical field composed a mnemonic ABCD to classify risk for melanoma. A person should check the mole for:
Asymmetry – irregular Asymmetry
Border – irregular Border
Color – unusual Color
Diameter – big Diameter
Letter E is added sometimes for the term Evolving because malignant moles can grow and elevate when they are not supposed to.
People prefer to remove moles. The primary reason why moles are removed because it may cause malignancy or there is already presence of malignancy. Today, moles are also removed for beauty purposes. Some people find these lesions distractive to their appearance. Moles can be removed by incision, laser or electrocautery. Lasers are only used for superficial lesions because light cannot penetrate deep moles. Electrocautery on the other hand, requires local anesthetic because of the pain an individual may feel during the procedure. Removal of moles causes discomfort following the procedure. This discomfort may be relieved by pain medications. Scars can also occur depending on the lesion size.