Mohs Surgery
Dermatologist Scottsdale AZ
Scottsdale Dermatologist Dr. LaTowsky

Moles


What is a mole?
A mole is a growth on the skin that is usually brown or black.  Most commonly, moles appear in early childhood and during the first 20 years of a person's life; however, some moles might not appear until later in life. Having between 10 and 40 moles as an adult is normal.

Over time moles can:

  • Remain the same and not change at all
  • Slowly disappear
  • Change in size or color


What causes a mole?
Moles occur when cells called melanocytes (the cell that makes pigment and give skin its color) grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin.  Most moles are not harmful and are benign. 
 
What should I look for when examining moles?
While most moles are benign, moles that change during adulthood (after the age of 30, generally) and look different than other existing moles are cause for concern and follow-up with a dermatology provider.  Moles may darken after exposure to the sun, during your teen years, and during pregnancy.

When doing a self-exam of moles, look at all moles but pay special attention to areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun, such as hands, arms, chest, neck, face and ears.  If one or more moles shows any of the following signs, schedule an appointment with one of our dermatology specialists for a comprehensive skin exam:

  • Increases in size, becomes misshapen and/or has uneven edges
  • Darkens or becomes more than one color
  • Bleeds
  • Itches
  • Appears scaly
  • Becomes painful


Any of the above signs could be linked to precancerous or cancerous moles.  As well, if as an adult, a new mole appears, schedule an appointment for a dermatology provider to examine the new mole. 

Knowing warning signs of the most serious type of skin cancer- melanoma- can help you detect and treat it early. If one of your moles has any of the ABCDE Warning Signs, please have it checked immediately by one of our providers.

Asymmetry

If you draw an imaginary line through your mole and the two halves do not match, this anomaly could be a warning sign for melanoma.

Border

The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped, notched or irregular.

Color

Having a variety of colors is another warning sign of melanoma. Several different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.

Diameter

Melanomas can be larger in diameter than a pencil eraser tip (6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.

Evolving

Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. If you are concerned your mole is changing, please schedule an appointment right away for a skin exam. Any change in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting can point to danger and should be taken seriously.


How are moles treated?
After receiving a comprehensive skin exam by one of our dermatology specialists, if the mole needs to be further evaluated under the microscope (or removed entirely), a biopsy (small tissue sample of the mole) will be performed and evaluated by a dermatopathologist.  If the mole is found to be atypical, your provider may remove the entire mole by cutting out the mole and a rim of normal skin around it, and stitching the wound closed.

We also have one of the few Mohs surgery physicians in Arizona on our team.  Mohs micrographic surgery is considered the most effective technique for treating many basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC), the two most common types of skin cancer

Living in the Valley of the Sun, we experience an average of 296 sunny days per year, which also makes Arizona a state with a higher than average incidence rate of melanoma.  For that reason, self-examinations and annual skin evaluations by a dermatologist are critical.  Schedule your annual skin exam today. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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