Having moles on your skin is not necessarily a cause for concern. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, almost everyone has at least a few moles; some people have between 10 and 40 of them. Moles are normal skin blemishes that generally appear in childhood. They are usually benign. Even so, you should keep an eye on your moles because melanoma, which is a skin cancer, usually grows near or in a mole.
Warning signs for melanoma are shape changes of an existing mole, a new mole that appears on the skin if you are older than 20 or a mole that bleeds, itches or grows. Dermatologists use the acronym, ABCDE as a guide to check for signs of cancer in moles. If the mole is asymmetrical (A), has a ragged border (B), has different colors throughout (C), has a diameter larger than half an inch (D) and is elevated (E), a visit to a dermatologist is in order.
Nevi, or congenital, moles appear on the skin at birth. About one in 100 people have these types of moles. Nevi moles are more prone to develop into melanoma than moles that appear during childhood. The risk of cancer is even greater in a nevi mole if it is more than 8 inches in diameter. Nevi moles are flat or raised. They can be rough or smooth, and some have hairs growing from them. They are usually black or brown, but they can be yellowish or skin-colored. Most nevi moles remain benign, but they can develop into melanoma.
Dysplastic nevi, or atypical, moles are larger than a pencil eraser, about half an inch in diameter. They are also irregularly shaped with uneven edges. Their color is uneven, too. Atypical moles are usually dark in the center and lighter on the edges. Atypical moles are hereditary, and people can have up to 100 of them. The risk of melanoma is higher with these types of moles.
Mole removal is usually recommended by a dermatologist if the mole is an atypical one that has changed in size or shape. Typically, when mole removal is considered, the dermatologist takes a biopsy to examine the mole more closely under a microscope. If the mole is malignant, the doctor will cut it out along with a little bit of the normal skin that surrounds the mole. Then, the wound is stitched shut.