Moles and Melanoma Newport Beach
What is a Mole?
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.
When Should a Mole be Removed?
The following are considerations for mole removal:
- If you have had an “atypical” or abnormal mole, or if there is a history of melanoma in your family, annual skin exams should be performed by a dermatologist to screen for irregular moles and skin cancer.
- A nevus increases in size, scaling, bleeding or any change in color or firmness.
- A nevus subject to chronic irritation, such as a shoulder strap, bra, razor, belt, etc.
- Removal of large congenital moles, or moles present since birth, is recommended as there is a higher incidence of developing malignant melanoma in this type of lesion than in those which arise later in life.
- A nevus may be removed if the patient considers it unsightly from a cosmetic point of view. There may be a surgical scar, depending on the site of the location of the mole.
- Moles on the palms, soles or genitalia should be removed because of an incidence of malignant changes. This particular problem has been under investigation for years, and the present feeling is that moles in these areas do not have any increased predisposition to undergo malignant change.
When is a Mole More Likely To Be Malignant (Cancerous)?
If there are suspected changes in a mole, do not hesitate to obtain a dermatology consultation. The following are suspicious changes:
- A slowly enlarging, blue-black flat mole which has become thickened demands immediate attention.
- Any mole that is enlarging, asymmetrical, has varied coloration (pink, brown, black within one mole), or irregular fuzzy borders should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
- Moles in persons with sandy red hair and light complexions are more susceptible to malignant changes, especially when there is repeated over-exposure to the sun.
- A dark colored patch slowly enlarging on the face of an older person over many years should receive dermatological evaluation. These lesions can degenerate into malignant lesions.
- The bathing trunk nevus is a large area of skin which is flat or warty and pigmented, and the nevus may be hairy. Such areas may need extensive plastic surgery or other removal, because of increased incidence of malignant change.
How Do You Tell if a Mole is Malignant?
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.