Moles commonly appear on the skin of the body or face of children and adults. A mole is benign (non-cancerous) and usually appears as a dark spot that is flat or raised above the skin’s surface.
While moles are usually harmless, those desirous of clean, clear, youthful skin may regard them as a skin imperfection.
Wanting flawless skin is one of the main reasons for seeking mole removal. In some cases, certain suspicious spots on the skin that resemble a mole may be a sign of melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer. Cancerous moles often require removal due to health reasons.
Mole removal is the process of getting rid of skin moles for medical or aesthetic reasons. Understanding what moles are, their types, causes, and symptoms may help you decide on the safest mole removal treatment.
What Are Moles?
A mole, also known as a melanocytic nevus, is a flat or elevated spot that is often dark or black in color. But they can also appear as flesh color, brown, tan, red, reddish-brown or purple.
A mole forms when pigment-producing cells known as melanocytes group and grow together, instead of individually.
Moles appear during early childhood or adolescence and increase in number and size with age. Skin moles appear mostly by age 30, with the average adult having between 10 to 40 skin moles. They are more visible on skin of lighter complexion.
Because other skin spots, such as seborrheic keratoses, freckles, sun spots, and acne may look like moles, it is important to differentiate between them. Also knowing mole types can help you know which ones are harmless or harmful.
Types Of Moles
Moles are classified based on their appearance, location, size, shape, color, and origin. They are further classified as junctional nevi, intradermal nevi, compound nevi or halo nevi based on their location on or beneath the layers of skin.
The following are common mole types. Each type can be treated with mole removal by a doctor using surgical or other methods.
Congenital Moles: Babies are not usually born with moles. Congenital moles also known as melanocytic nevi (or birthmarks) are moles that are present at birth or develop within the first year. They are usually not cancerous.
People with this type of mole have a 0-10% risk of developing melanoma skin cancer. The risk is heavily dependent on the size of the mole and its location. Congenital moles larger than the palm of the hand and appearing on the buttocks or back are more likely to turn into melanoma skin cancer.
Acquired Moles: Acquired moles are considered normal and common and are usually non-cancerous. They develop at any time during childhood and adulthood and are round and regularly shaped. Acquired moles are less than 6 millimeters (1/4 inch) in size and no larger in width than a pencil eraser.
Normal moles generally remain the same shape, size, and color for years and may even fade away (flat mole) or fall off (raised mole) with time. They rarely turn cancerous.
Atypical Moles: These moles, also known as dysplastic nevi, are hereditary and may appear on skin exposed to the sun and covered skin. They are irregularly shaped and larger than a pencil eraser.
Atypical moles are uneven in color with a dark brown center, or have black dots around the edges, or a border that is reddish brown or lighter in color than common moles. Their irregular features are called features of melanoma. While most dysplastic nevi do not become cancerous, those who have them have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
What Causes Moles?
Melanocytes (skin cells) produce the melanin responsible for giving skin its color (pigmentation). Occasionally, melanocytes cluster together and form moles. The following are common risk factors for moles:
Genetics: Persons with a family history of moles are more likely to develop moles, especially if their parents or siblings have them. Atypical moles are more likely to become melanoma skin cancer.
Sun exposure: Moles are also believed to be the product of sun damage to the skin, especially due to extensive exposure to the sun during childhood or beach tanning. People living in tropical, sunny regions tend to develop more moles than those who live in cooler regions. People with many moles are more likely to develop malignant melanoma.
Hormonal Changes: Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy and puberty are responsible for the appearance of new moles in pregnant women and adolescents. During pregnancy and puberty old moles get darker and may become larger.
“Pregnancy moles” are generally harmless and tend to fade away after pregnancy. Pregnant women are encouraged to tell their gynecologist if they have a family history of atypical moles due to the risk of skin cancer.
Symptoms Of Moles
Acquired and congenital moles (generally non-cancerous) can be found under the armpit, nails, between fingers and toes, on the scalp, face and on other parts of the body. Whether it be a flat mole or a raised mole, benign moles can be identified based on the following characteristics:
• Size: Normal, non-cancerous moles are usually less than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters) in diameter or no larger than a pencil eraser. Rarely do congenital moles appear bigger in size, but it has happened. When it does, it may cover a large area of the face, limb or torso.
• Shape: Benign moles are round or oval shaped. They keep their shape and have neat edges.
• Color and texture: Moles can show up in various colors such as black, brown, tan, blue, red and even pink. They may be wrinkled or smooth. Some moles even have hair growing out of them.
Treatment Of Moles
Common moles do not usually need treatment, although people have them removed for beauty purposes. In the case of a congenital or atypical mole, removal may depend on a few factors.
They include the color, size, and location of the mole and whether it has a potential risk of developing into melanoma. Your doctor or dermatologist may recommend mole removal in the following circumstances:
• The mole is bothersome or gets irritated, e.g., it rubs against clothing or cause difficulty when shaving;
• The spot or mole on your skin is a suspected skin cancer mole; or
• It is conspicuous and unattractive
How To Remove Moles
You may be wondering how to get rid of skin moles if you have a suspicious spot or mole that is bothersome, or you are unhappy with how your mole makes you look.
You may remove a mole on your face or skin for beauty reasons or due to health reasons. Whatever the reason, it is important to note that mole removal is a personal decision.
In the case of an underlying condition, such as skin cancer, mole removal may become mandatory. Regardless of the type or location of your mole, mole removal at home should never be attempted. The following mole removal methods are considered safe and effective:
• Laser Removal
Shaving: Moles can be safely removed by shaving off. This type of mole removal may be especially effective for smaller, raised moles or even flat malignant moles. Your dermatologist will use a surgical blade or similar instrument to shave off the moles.
Excision or Cutting: This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure. First, your dermatologist will examine your mole under a microscope to check for cancer cells. The dermatologist will cut out the mole using a scalpel and close the wound by stitching.
Laser Therapy: This is a popular mole removal procedure that is safe and effective, and may be more suitable for small, flat moles. The cosmetic surgeon uses a specially designed laser to deliver heat energy to the affected area. This breaks up the mole cells and cause the mole to fade.
Freezing: Cold liquid nitrogen may be used for mole removal. This method may be more suitable for non-cancerous moles that develop on the upper layers of the skin. The liquid causes the mole to become a blister that heals and fade the mole.
Natural Mole Removal
You may try to remove a mole by using natural or home remedies suggested by DIY guides on how to remove a mole. They may suggest the use of plants, foods, oils, or household products.
Sometimes, a mole remover device or mole removal cream is even recommended. There is no scientific proof that these methods are safe or effective. They include the following:
• Cutting off the mole (by using a razor blade, shaving blade or scissors)
• Burning off the mole (by using apple cider vinegar)
• Killing mole cells (by applying iodine to penetrate inside the inner cells)
• Destroying the mole (by using garlic paste to penetrate and destroy the cells inside the mole)
• Make moles fade or drop off (by applying oils such as tea tree oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, or frankincense oil. The application of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, banana peel, or aloe vera has also been suggested.
• Mole Removal Creams (sold online or in stores claim to make moles scab and fall off within one or a few days of applying it to the mole)
Signs Your Mole May Be Cancerous
Normal moles keep their shape, size, and color for many years. Even if they increase in size, the growth is gradual and minimal.
Rapid changes in the shape, color, or size of a mole or a mole that looks like a blood blister may be a sign that a melanoma may be developing.
If the mole itches, bleeds, swells, or crusts you should see a dermatologist.
To prevent skin cancer from sneaking up on you through a mole that may look normal, you should examine your moles regularly. Do this especially if you have many moles or have a family history of atypical moles.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the use of the ABCDE method of determining if a mole is atypical or cancerous.
Asymmetry: While common moles are symmetrical, atypical moles are usually asymmetrical: This means if you drew a line through the middle of an atypical mole, the two halves would not look alike.
Border: Common moles usually have a regular shape and a well-defined border. Atypical moles tend to have edges that are fuzzy and not well defined. Parts of the mole may also appear faded into the skin.
Color: Common moles are evenly colored brown, black, tan, or flesh-colored, etc. But atypical moles have an irregular color that is unevenly distributed throughout the surface.
Diameter: Normal moles are smaller than 6 millimeters (1/4 inch) or the size of a pencil eraser while atypical moles are generally larger. Note that some cancerous moles may be smaller in size but have the other irregular attributes.
Evolution: Moles suspected to be malignant evolve with time. They may change shape, size, color or edge definition. An enlarged mole, the appearance of a new mole after age 40, or a mole that grows back after removal may be suspected as skin cancer.
Frequently Asked Questions About Skin Moles
Is mole removal at home safe?
Your mole may be unattractive or bothersome, especially if it has a mole hair growing out of it. To avoid going to the dermatologist or to cut cost, some people choose to use a mole remover tool or cream at home. Mole removal at home is risky and potentially harmful.
Always consult a dermatologist to decide the safest way to remove a mole on the face or skin moles. This is especially important since you would not know if the mole has cancer cells that may spread after attempting to remove it. Bleeding and infection may also result.
Why do moles grow hair?
Mole hair occurs when a mole develops over a hair follicle. Some people believe that mole hair means the mole is cancerous and may pluck or tweeze it. The ABCDE’s of determining a melanoma mole does not indicate that the presence of hair inside the mole signals cancer.
How to get rid of moles?
People, especially those with many moles or moles that are visible such as on the face, often want to know how to get rid of moles. Mole removal is not a one-size-fits-all. Your dermatologist will recommend the safest method for you, which could be shaving, freezing, surgical excision, or cosmetic surgery.
How much does mole removal cost?
Mole removal cost varies based on several factors. They include the shape, size, and location of the mole. Larger moles and moles that develop deep in the lower layers of the skin may be more challenging to remove than surface level moles that can be easily shaved off.
Cost also depends on the procedure used. Laser therapy may be more expensive than shaving or surgical excision even though the chance for scarring is minimal to none. Mole removal cost may also be higher if a specialist or plastic surgeon is used.
Does mole removal leave a scar?
Some degree of scarring is expected when mole removal is done. Shaving and cutting are more likely to leave a scar. The visibility of the scar depends on the size of the mole that was cut and its location. Gels, creams or cosmetic treatment may be used after mole removal to reduce the appearance of scars.