Moles or nevi are growths on the skin. These growths occur when cells in the skin, called melanocytes, grow in a cluster with tissue surrounding them. Moles are usually pink, tan, brown, or flesh-colored. Melanocytes are also spread evenly throughout the skin and produce the pigment that gives skin its natural color. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes produce more pigment, causing the skin to tan, or darken. Moles are extremely common; most people have between 10 and 40 moles and can develop new moles usually until about age 40. Moles can be flat or raised and are usually round or oval and no larger than a pencil eraser. Many moles begin as a small, flat spot and slowly become larger in diameter and raised. Over many years, they may flatten again, become flesh-colored, and disappear.
About one out of every ten people has at least one unusual (or atypical) mole that looks different from an ordinary mole, called dysplastic nevi. These lesions are abnormal, and depending on the level of abnormality (“dysplasia” or “atypia”), may need to be removed. Severely dysplastic nevi need to be completely removed (excised), to ensure they don’t progress to malignant melanoma skin cancer. Our doctors specialize in using the MelaFind device, that can help determine if a mole has a high or low risk of being a malignant melanoma skin cancer.
There are several ways to remove moles, normal or dysplastic. The doctor may initially perform a shave or punch biopsy and send the lesion for diagnosis. If the lesion is severely dysplastic, the doctor will perform a surgical excision, which requires stitching, to ensure that the entire lesion is removed and the chance of progression to cancer is eliminated.