This is a common term for the medical designation of “nevus.” The mole or nevus is a small, usually pigmented area on the skin which may be flat or raised. It may appear anywhere on the body, and may be present from birth. In general, most people develop between 60 and 100 moles during their lifetime. Many of these begin to appear in and around puberty. In many cases, a nevus cannot be distinguished by its appearance from a freckle.
The nevus is composed of a particular tissue cells called nevus cells. These cells are part of the skin, and are located in the lowermost epidermis (outer layer) and uppermost part of the dermis.
Nevi are not contagious, and have a tendency to be hereditary.
The following are considerations for mole removal:
The removal of a mole does not cause cancer or induce cancer in that mole.
If there are suspected changes in a mole, do not hesitate to obtain a dermatology consultation. The following are suspicious changes:
The diagnosis of malignancy in a particular nevus can only be made when the tissue is examined under the microscope by a dermatologist or dermatopathologist. Biopsy or surgical excision is required to determine malignancy.
Nevi that appear at birth or shortly thereafter are called congenital moles. These are not all suspicious for malignancy. The size of congenital nevi determines, in part, its malignant potential. Large congenital nevi should be evaluated by your dermatologist.
In addition, hormones in puberty can change the appearance of moles and the number of nevi on an individual. These changes are expected and should not cause alarm. However, annual skin exams should be completed to evaluate new moles or changes in existing moles.
The most common skin tumors which resemble moles are skin cancers, benign fibromas, and nodules of the skin. Most commonly, seborrheic keratoses may resemble moles but they are not composed of nevus cells. Seborrheic keratoses are benign warty growths of varying color which appear stuck on the skin and generally appear later on in age.
Yes. Removal of a nevus will usually leave a scar, no matter how it is performed. As a general rule, however, the cosmetic result is very good and much more acceptable than the presence of the mole. A small linear scar will result when a nevus is excised, cut out, and stitches are used. If a nevus is shaved off at approximately skin level and the underlying tissue lightly dessicated by electric needle, a round, mildly depressed scar may result. A scab forms, which falls off in about two weeks, leaving a pink patch. Over the following three moths, the color approaches that of the surrounding skin and the area is filled in so that it is frequently hard to find the scar.
In a small percentage of cases, patients will develop a hypertrophic or thickened scar at the surgical or biopsy site. Thickened scars are more common on the chest, shoulders and back. A small percentage of persons – more commonly African Americans – may develop a keloid, a very thick scar. The reasons for this are unknown and unpredictable. Cortisone injections and treatments may flatten thickened scars.