Moles are quite common in individuals of all ages. They are medically known as nevi. Moles or nevi are a collection of pigmented (dark colored) cells that often present as black or dark brown spots on the body.
Moles can occur anywhere on the body but are commonly seen on the trunk, face and extremities. Despite these classic findings, moles can vary in size and color and can occur anywhere in the body. Moles may occur on the scalp, ears, underneath toenails, armpits, in the groin and between the fingers or toes.
At one time, a mole on the cheek of a female was considered sexy and attractive. It used to be called a "beauty mark." Some were even dyed differently to make them look more prominent. However, moles may be beautiful but in some cases they may harbor a dangerous skin cancer.
The number of moles an individual may have is very variable. Some may have a few and others may have more than 20. There is no reason why someone can not have many moles. New moles can appear throughout life; some moles disappear with age
Most moles appear during the first 2 decades of life, although some may appear later. Sun exposure increases the number of moles, and may cause it to darken. During pregnancy, moles get darker, larger and new ones may appear.
Moles may appear just like an ordinary skin spot but is slightly raised above the skin. Moles can vary in size and color. The majority are about 2-8 mm and the color may range from brown, to grey to black. The dark brown color is caused by special cells that secrete the pigment melanin. In newborns large moles may cover the entire arm or leg and may need to be removed. Large moles generally have a tendency to degenerate into cancer (melanoma).
Most moles last about 50 years. They initially start off as a flat skin lesion which may appear like a freckle. Over time the lesion will become raised and change color. Some moles even develop hair. Some do not change at all. Other moles will slowly disappear and fade away. Still others may continue to grow.
When a mole is touched it usually feels smooth, but can also be rough and wrinkled. Some moles on a stalk may fall on when rubbed or traumatized.
Although most moles develop by age 20, they can continue to appear until midlife.
Moles are generally harmless but the occasional mole may become cancerous. The most important thing about a mole is to ensure that it does not become a cancer, Awareness and monitoring the mole is very important and should be a life long chore. The dreaded skin cancer, melanoma, frequently develops from a mole.