Melanin is a natural pigment that gives your skin its color. It is produced in cells called melanocytes which are generally found in the lower layers of the skin's second layer (dermis). Melanin is then transported to the surface cells of your skin. Normally, melanin is distributed evenly, but sometimes melanocytes grow together in a cluster, giving rise to moles.
Why moles occur and how they develop is not well understood. The majority of moles are harmless and do not pose a health risk. However, there are certain moles which are unusual looking and are more likely to turn into a cancer. These unusual moles can occur on the back, chest and legs and more likely to become malignant.
Moles can occur in both genders and in all ages. Moles which are most likely to become malignant include:
Large moles present at birth. There are some moles which appear at birth which are very large. These large moles may appear on the neck or legs may often have hair growing on them. These large or hairy moles have a higher chance of turning into malignant melanomas. The bigger the size of the mole at birth the greater the chance of cancer later in life.
Moles that run in families. There are some moles called dysplastic nevi. These moles tend to run in families. The dysplastic moles are very small in size (2-6 mm) and have an irregular shape. They usually have a dark brown color with lighter edges. Some individual may have anywhere from 1-20 such nevi. These small nevi also have the potential to turn into melanomas
Numerous moles. The number of moles an individual has also increases the risk of melanoma.
All individuals who have numerous moles or moles which are large in size need to be followed up by a dermatologist.
Individuals with such moles need a through skin exam annually. All suspicious moles should be biopsied to rule out cancer.
Moles are removed and then examined underneath a microscope. If the mole is found to be cancerous, the entire mole is removed.
Moles are removed by:
• Removing the mole by shave excision (shaving it off)
• Cutting out the entire mole and stitching the area closed
If you see any signs of change in an existing mole, if you have a new mole or if you want a mole to be removed for cosmetic reasons, you need to be seen by a dermatologist