A mole is a grouping of pigmented skin cells that grow in a cluster, instead of spreading out. They are usually brown or black in color and can appear anywhere on the body.

Moles may appear at birth, but can sometimes develop shortly afterwards (which are referred to as congenital nevi). Most develop in childhood and early adult life and become more prominent with age. Moles may also darken with repeated sun exposure or as a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy. Most people have moles, but any irregularities or changes in the shape, edge, color or size can be warning signs of skin cancer. Although they rarely become cancerous, you should consult with a doctor if you spot any changes in its appearance (size, shape, color, sensation). Skin cancer may take years to develop. Many forms grow slowly, but some melanomas may grow quickly. If found in the early stages, it’s very treatable.

Although moles are generally harmless, some may become cancerous. Be aware of any changes to your moles and seek medical advice if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • The mole suddenly or continuously gets larger
  • The skin around a mole becomes red or develops colored blemishes or swellings
  • A mole that was flat or slightly elevated increases in height rapidly
  • A smooth mole develops scaliness, erosion or oozing. Crusting, ulceration or bleeding are signs of more advanced disease

Itching is the most common early symptom. Skin cancers however are usually painless. Early detection of skin cancer is critical as it reduces the risk for spread to other areas of the body. Have your moles checked regularly by a dermatologist or your family doctor.

Moles are formed when pigmented skin cells grow in a cluster instead of spreading out. Mole cells migrate in utero from the brain into the skin. A minority of congenital moles are present at birth or shortly thereafter. Childhood sun exposure has actually shown to increase the number of moles a person will develop.

Certain moles may be easily irritated, so it is advisable to use skincare products designed for sensitive skin. Use gentle cleansers and toners to keep your skin clean and clear. Avoid astringents that contain alcohol, which can dry out the skin. Moisturizers help to restore and maintain the skin’s natural moisture levels. Look for moisturizers specially designed for sensitive skin that are free of fragrance, dye or other allergens that may irritate the skin. Avoid wearing jewelry or constricting clothing that may rub up against or scratch a mole.

Because moles have the potential to develop into skin cancer, it’s important to take preventive measures when going out in the sun.

Limit sun exposure: Reducing your time in the sun is perhaps the easiest way to avoid damage to your skin caused by UV rays. When outdoors, set a time limit and seek shade when necessary. Also keep in mind that UV radiation is the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Use Sunscreen: Sunscreens are an essential part of protection against the sun. Look for sunscreens that are labeled “Broad Spectrum”. They are often the most effective and offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure to apply generously and frequently.

Cover and protect: Wrap-around sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and clothing that covers your arms and legs, can offer extra protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Look for any changes in your skin: If any changes in existing moles, or new skin growths are noticed, consult with a dermatologist to determine if the symptoms may be precancerous.

Moles that have become enlarged or are considered precancerous can be removed by medical procedures such as surgical excision. This is the standard treatment for moles, as they can be removed and checked microscopically to determine if they are benign.