Moles are growths on the skin that are usually flesh-colored brown or black. Moles may be located anywhere on the body. A congenital nevus usually emerges within the first 3 years of life and is often referred to as a birthmark. Although many moles and birthmarks are completely benign and pose no health risk, only a dermatologist can be trusted to assess a moles risk for cellular abnormality or malignancy. Some benign moles may be removed because they are bothersome or unattractive. Individuals with a large number of moles may be at increased risk for melanoma. Yearly skin exams with a dermatologist and regular diligent use of UVA/UVB sunblock is highly recommended.
Atypical moles may be asymmetrical, or have irregular borders and uneven coloring; they can be located anywhere on the body, including areas not exposed to the sun. Atypical moles can have a risk of becoming malignant. Concerning moles may be larger than a pencil eraser, itching or bleeding, dark in color or black, changing color, size or shapes, multicolored or located in special areas such as the scalp. Although abnormal moles and melanoma can occur in places not exposed to the sun, UV radiation is known to be a causative factor in melanoma.
When a mole is evaluated and found to have suspicious characteristics, it will be recommended to have the mole removed or very closely monitored. Removal is usually performed in a short office procedure where the area is numbed with local anesthetic and the mole is removed and sent out to be examined by a dermatopathologist (a doctor who is specialized in evaluating skin lesions under a microscope). Depending on the location, you will likely have stitches placed.