Just about everyone has at least a few moles. Most moles develop in early adulthood over the first 30 years of a person’s life. They are common — the average person has between 10 and 40 moles. Most moles are harmless, but some, called dysplastic moles, are precursor lesions of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It’s important to watch for changes in moles, especially if you have a family history of melanoma. Dr. Reichel can remove moles for cosmetic reasons or when they are potentially dangerous.
What causes moles?
Moles develop when melanocyte cells (responsible for skin color) grow in clusters rather than being spread across the skin. Moles can grow anywhere on the skin and are usually brown or black. Thanks to their relationship with skin pigment, some moles darken with sun exposure, during the hormonal teenage years, and during pregnancy. Over time they change. Some develop hairs, others will become more raised, and others may change color.
Most moles are harmless, but when a mole changes color, height, size, or shape, that’s when Dr. Reichel needs to see it.
How are moles removed?
Most moles don’t require any treatment. But they may be cosmetically unappealing or uncomfortable when they rub on your clothing, and you may want the mole surgically removed. Obviously, moles that are showing signs of possible melanoma need to be removed and examined.
Removing a mole takes just a few minutes. Generally, Dr. Reichel removes moles in three ways:
- Excision — Some moles can be shaved off with a blade. Other moles with cells under the skin will require a deeper incision to remove the entire mole and prevent it from returning. This may require a couple stitches to close.
- Freezing — Liquid nitrogen can be sprayed or swabbed onto the mole. This freezes the mole’s cells and they die. The mole will peel off in a week or two.
- Burning — An electric current that heats a wire can be used to burn off moles. Larger moles may take more than one treatment to fully remove them.
None of these methods is difficult, but the area will be numbed with local anesthetic prior to Dr. Reichel removing the mole.
How can I tell if a mole may be cancerous?
Although most moles are benign, occasionally they can be a precursor to melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If a person has over 50 moles, he or she is at a greater risk for developing melanoma. If your mole exhibits these signs, please call Dr. Reichel immediately. The mole:
- Is larger than six millimeters
- Itches and bleeds
- Changes color, size or shape
- Has multiple colors
- Is located where it can’t be easily monitored, such as on the scalp
Is there recovery after mole removal?
Mole removal, whatever method is used, is a simple outpatient procedure. If the mole is cut out, there may be a couple stitches. Otherwise, freezing and burning will merit little more than a bandage to cover the mole until it peels off. A small blister can develop around the mole when liquid nitrogen is used. Unless the mole is in a spot where it is touched or rubbed, there really isn’t any recovery with their removal.
Will mole removal leave a scar?
In most cases, the small size of moles doesn’t create any scar after their removal. There may be a small white patch afterwards, but it isn’t highly noticeable.
» Click here to view before/after photos of this procedure in the Photo Gallery.