Moles are small skin lesions or growths that are often harmless and give a person’s skin unique character. However, other moles are the result of skin damage and may actually need medical attention. Here is an overview of the types of moles and their distinguishing characteristics to help you understand why moles appear on the skin and when they’re a problem.
Causes of Moles
Moles are often hereditary and occur naturally in families. Skin cells grow in clusters rather than being spread out normally on the skin to create a mole. You may notice that moles get darker after being out in the sun and due to hormonal changes during puberty or pregnancy. Over the course of a person’s life, it is common for moles to grow hairs out of them and become more raised than they initially were when they appeared. Even if you take great care of your skin with natural skincare products, it is possible to develop new moles or see changes in existing ones over time.
Who Gets Moles?
Moles are very common among people of all skin colors and skin types, and many moles develop early in the childhood years. It is common for people to have a few dozen moles on their skin and to see new ones develop later in adulthood too.
Types of Moles
Some moles are present right away in life and appear on a baby’s skin at birth. These moles are called congenital moles and are usually not cancerous. Meanwhile, dysplastic moles are irregularly shaped moles with uneven colors and edges that are hereditary. These moles appear after birth and are often present in large numbers on a person’s body.
Acquired moles develop due to sun damage but are not necessarily a sign of skin cancer. Atypical moles come with a heightened risk of cancer and affect about 10 percent of people in the U.S.
When to Be Concerned About a Mole
If you notice changes to a mole, such as it changing in size, shape, or color, it is likely time to have the mole checked out by a doctor. Other warning signs are moles that become itchy, bleed, or new moles that form quickly and unexpectedly. Check your moles regularly for symmetry, defined borders, color, diameter, and any other noticeable changes.
Treatment for Moles
People decide to have moles removed for cosmetic reasons, because of concerns about skin cancer, or because of mole’s location that causes friction or discomfort. Removal of a mole should generally not be attempted at home and only be done by an experienced medical professional. Dermatologists may cut or shave off moles depending on their size and type. This process may require stitches for very large moles and leave behind some scarring.
Meanwhile, some people have used home remedies to try to remove moles, such as tea tree oil, hydrogen peroxide, or a mixture of baking soda and castor oil. Studies on the effectiveness and safety of DIY mole removal is very limited, however. Home removal is often dangerous and harmful to the skin, so the safest option is to see a dermatologist to confirm whether a mole is harmless or needs to be treated medically.