Moles are a type of skin growth that is relatively common. A nevus (plural: nevi) is another term for a mole.

Common moles are sometimes present at birth, but they usually appear later in childhood. Until roughly the age of 40, the majority of people continue to grow new moles. Moles can darken during pregnancy or as a result of exposure to the sun. Common moles tend to go away in older people.

The average person has between 10 and 40 moles on their skin. They could be pink, tan, brown or a hue that matches the person's skin tone.

  • Moles are usually round or oval and around the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Moles can be flat or elevated in appearance. Junctional nevi are flat moles, while compound nevi are elevated moles.
  • Dark-skinned people are more likely to have dark moles.
  • These growths are most common above the waist in sun-exposed areas and are rarely found on the scalp, breast or buttocks.

Causes of Moles

Moles are formed by clusters of melanocytes and surrounding tissue. Melanocytes are the cells that create melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Melanocytes create more pigment when skin is exposed to the sun, causing the skin to tan or darken.

When the skin around a mole loses its pigmentation or color, it is called a halo nevus. This is usually harmless and the central mole and white ring will fade away over time. Children and teenagers are the most common victims of halo nevi.

The majority of moles are non-cancerous and do not require treatment. Moles that have been surgically removed usually do not recur.

Moles and Melanoma

Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, rarely develops from an ordinary mole, but it is possible. People with more than 50 moles have a higher risk of acquiring melanoma.

If a person notices any of the following changes in a common mole, they should contact their doctor:

  • The color changes.
  • The mole shrinks or grows in an irregular manner (unlike normal moles in children, which get evenly bigger)
  • The shape, texture or height of the mole varies.
  • Dry or scaly skin appears on the surface.
  • The mole hardens or gets lumpy.
  • It begins to itch.
  • It oozes or bleeds.

Monthly skin self-examinations are recommended for everyone. If you have a lot of moles on your body, this is especially crucial.

Keep track of the number of moles, their location and their appearance with a body mole map. If you discover a new mole, a change in the size, shape or color of an existing mole or another questionable skin lesion, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

To help prevent moles from growing, avoid sun exposure and apply sunscreen on a regular basis.

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