Otherwise known as a nevus (plural: nevi), moles are either considered to be a symbol of beauty or imperfection.
An average person will have anywhere between 10 to 40 moles on their skin where they can appear, fade, or grow over time. In women, moles are most commonly found on the arms and legs; while for men, the most common sites are the back, trunk, head, and neck.
Moles are caused by pigments cells called melanocytes growing at a faster rate than usual and forming in clusters. Although these cells help to protect our skin from harmful UV rays from the sun – they can sometimes turn against us and signify a serious health issue – skin cancer.
In addition to skin cancer, it is not uncommon for dermatologists to see patients who wish to get their moles removed solely for personal or cosmetic reasons.
If you are deciding whether or not to get a mole removal done – here are 8 of the most frequently asked questions that might help!
#1: Are all moles the same?
Although moles look the same to the untrained eye, there are actually slight differences that can distinguish between a normal and “atypical” mole.
In general, there are congenital moles, which are the moles that we are born with, and acquired moles which appear and develop as we grow older. Majority of these moles are harmless and benign; however, you should seek further advice from a doctor should you have an atypical mole.
Atypical moles are characterized by moles that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, varied and irregular colours, and a large diameter that may have grown from an old mole. About 1 in 10 people will have an atypical mole and these moles have the highest risk of developing into cancer!
Should you have an atypical mole that is swelling, bleeding, swelling, itchy, or painful – do not hesitate to see a doctor immediately.
#2: Why do moles become cancerous?
The characteristics and number of moles that we have are largely influenced by genetics, hormonal and environmental factors.
While recent studies have shown that genetics may have a greater influence in the appearance and number of moles you have than previously thought – cancerous moles often develop due to some form of damage to your skin’s DNA from excessive sun exposure.
This leads to the proliferation and uncontrolled growth of your skin cells that can manifest into skin cancer; the most common types being basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma.
Melanoma is the most life-threatening type that requires early intervention in order to increase the chances of survival. This is why you should never downplay the importance of getting your moles checked by a doctor.
#3: How do I check my moles?
An easy way to check your moles is to follow the ABCDE rule:
A: Asymmetry (half of the mole does not match the other half in size and shape)
B: Borders (the outer edges are uneven)
C: Color (your mole has multiple colors or changes color over time)
D: Diameter (your mole is greater than 6mm, which is roughly the size of a pencil eraser)
E: Evolving (your mole has changed in size, shape & color)
This is a valuable method that doctors also use to check for atypical moles – even if your mole checks off just one of the symptoms above – this could be a sign of something more serious and you should never ignore!
#4: What happens during a consultation?
During your first consultation, be prepared to provide your doctor with information regarding your family and medical history, as well as the reasons for concerns in regards to your moles.
After which, the doctor will proceed to do a simple physical examination to check your moles for any abnormalities and symptoms that indicate it might be malignant.
To safely rule out skin cancer and make the most accurate diagnosis, your doctor may recommend a skin biopsy; where they will shave off a sample using a scalpel and take it to the laboratory for further testing. This is a simple procedure that takes just 10 – 20 minutes.
#5: What is the best mole removal treatment?
The best mole removal treatment for you will depend on your mole’s size, location, and depth. Today, the most common treatments available are excision, punch biopsy, and laser treatment removal – offering both surgical or non-surgical options for patients with different needs and goals.
Excision is where the mole and some of the surrounding skin is removed using a scalpel. A local anaesthetic is applied to ensure that it is comfortable procedure and stitches may be required, depending on the size of the mole and whether a shave or surgical excision is done.
Surgical excision is currently the gold-standard for removing all types of moles, and in particular – malignant moles that are considerably large and found deep underneath the skin. By removing the entire mole as well as some of the peripheral healthy tissue, this procedure ensures that the cancerous cells are all removed.
Surgical excision will work best on irregular or large mole that are flat, while a shave excision will work better on moles the protrude out of the skin’s epidermis.
On the other hand, punch biopsies are done using a unique circular punching tool instead of a needle. Essentially, it is used to “punch out” a small section of your skin that includes the mole and deeper layers of the skin and is ideal when working with smaller sized and flat moles.
Laser mole removal is considered to be the least invasive method out of the three and is best used for non-malignant, superficial and small mole removal. The best part about laser treatments is that it doesn’t require any downtime, and the risk for scarring is much lower. However, they will require at least 1 – 3 sessions to see results.
Scarring is a major concern for the majority of mole removal patients who undergo excision or punch biopsies, which is why laser mole removal is highly recommended for those removing their mole for cosmetic reasons!
#6: How often should I check my moles?
It is highly recommended that you get your moles checked at least once a month using the ABCDE rule if you are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
It can help to take photographs so that it is easier to keep track of any changes and report them to your doctor.
Self-checks are extremely important and early detection can make a huge difference in stopping the cancerous cells from spreading to other vital organs.
#7: Are mole removal treatments safe?
Mole removal is a very safe and common procedure; however, it still carries the risk of infection and nerve damage if done by an inexperienced doctor.
It is also NOT safe when you try to do any mole removal by yourself – although they may seem easy and convenient, many issues may arise as a result of doing so, even if it’s just a small mole removal.
One, you might not remove the mole completely. Two, you are not able to assess if the mole is malignant and potentially life-threatening. And three, you might face even more scarring than if you were to get it done with a doctor!
#8: Will my mole be removed permanently?
As moles are still made up of active skin cells, there is always a possibility of recurrence. This is especially so for laser mole removal if the entire mole is not properly removed. The only way to remove a mole permanently is to undergo an excision or punch biopsy.
In addition, cancerous lesions which occur on the nose region and those who have been previously diagnosed with skin cancer also have a higher chance of recurrence, which is why these patients need to continue monitoring their skin for any changes as well as schedule follow-up appointments with their doctor.
Ultimately, when mole removal treatment is done with an experienced and knowledgeable doctor, the chances of recurrence is close to zero!
Regardless of whether your moles are malignant or non-malignant – you can always count on our doctors to ensure that your mole removal treatment is painless and with minimal scarring.
We offer a range of mole removal treatments, including shave excision, surgical excision, and laser mole removal! Our focus in all these treatments is ensuring complete removal of the mole while minimizing discomfort, scarring, and recurrence.
If required, our doctors are also able to offer a combination treatment using multiple laser devices or methods for complex cases including post-treatment aftercare instructions to maximize your results!
We understand that having a mole at an undesirable spot can be distressing and harmful not just to your health, but also your self-esteem – if that is the case, book a consultation with us and let our doctors customize a treatment for you today!