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Skin Moles 101

You wake up one morning and find that there something pesky on your skin. You think nothing of it initially and some time goes by. It must be some kind of bruise but you don’t remember bumping into anything. Meh. It’ll go away on its own. Fast forward to a week or two later, you check again and that pesky thing is still there. Sound familiar?

Moles occur on the skin’s surface when pigment-producing cells cluster together forming a concentration instead of spreading out like they are supposed to. They are very common and sometimes people may have several of them. Moles come in different shapes and sizes ranging from flat to raised to an actual growth on the skin. Typically, moles are harmless. However, you should immediately get them checked if you notice any changes in color or appearance.

Types of Moles

Congenital Moles

Otherwise known as birthmarks, these are moles that you are born with. They can range in size and color. Some birthmarks can be removed with cosmetic or aesthetic surgery.


Common or Acquired Moles

As the name suggests, these moles are acquired or appear after birth and can appear anywhere on the skin’s surface.


Atypical Moles aka Dysplatic Nevi

These moles are irregular in appearance, shape and color. They can appear any on the body but are usually found in torso area. They have a tendency to occur more in fair-skinned individuals.


Causes of New Moles

Science isn’t exactly sure what causes new moles in adults – whether cancerous melanomas or benign. There’s extensive research on melanomas but not a lot on benign moles. Some studies point to genetic mutation as the likely culprit. In a 2015 research study, reports show that genetic mutations of the BRAF gene were present in 78 percent of benign acquired moles.

New moles may occur as a result of:

  • Aging
  • Family history of atypical moles
  • Genetic mutations
  • Fair skin and light/red hair
  • A reaction to drugs that suppress your immune system
  • A reaction to other drugs, such as some antibiotics, hormones, or antidepressants
  • Sunburn/sun exposure or tanning bed use

Moles that occur in adulthood are more likely to become cancerous. A 2017 review of case studies found that 70.9 percent of melanomas arose from a new mole. If you’re an adult with a new mole, it’s important to have it checked by your doctor or a dermatologist.

What To Look For:

Use this quick melanoma guide developed by the American Academy of Dermatology to check your moles:

  • Asymmetrical Each half of the mole is different.
  • Border. The mole has irregular borders.
  • Color. The mole has changed color or has many or mixed colors.
  • Diameter. The mole gets larger — more than 1/4 inch in diameter.
  • Evolving. The mole keeps changing in size, color, shape, or thickness.

Bottom line – conduct regular self-checks on your skin. If you notice anything unusual such as change in size, color, pain or secretion, see your physician immediately.

To book a complimentary consult to see Dr. Dima, call 703.787.9866.

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